Iceland & UK sign agreement to boost security, defence cooperation

RAF Typhoon fighter jets flying over Britain in 2018. Iceland and the United Kingdom cooperate closely on defence through NATO. Later on this year, RAF Typhoon fighter jets will participate in NATO Air Policing over Iceland. (Darren Staples/Reuters)
Iceland and the United Kingdom have signed an agreement to boost security cooperation between their two countries.

The Memorandum of Understand was signed in London on Tuesday by UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Iceland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson.

“Our security environment has been transformed in recent years,” said Thordarson in emailed comment to Eye on the Arctic on Wednesday. “Therefore, we are very pleased that we have concluded this agreement, which reflects this new realities.

“Iceland and the United Kingdom work closely together, e.g. within NATO and the UN, and they also share interests, e.g. in the North Atlantic. We are determined to cooperate on meeting new challenges, thus contributing to improved security and stability in our region. At this moment, it is very important to underline further the positive bilateral relationship between Iceland and the United Kingdom. “

NATO allies

Both Iceland and the UK are members of NATO, but the new agreement also covers areas like policing, counter-terrorism, search and rescue, risk and crisis management, and cyber security. 

“The signing of the MoU represents a significant step forward in the process of formalising the already positive bilateral relationship the UK and Iceland have, recognising the two countries’ shared interests, values and responsibilities,” said a news release posted on the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s website.  

“This builds on recent cooperation, including a visit in January by members of the Icelandic National Security Council (NSC) to meet UK NSC counterparts, and ongoing cyber cooperation between the Oxford Cyber Centre and the relevant Icelandic authorities.” 

UK’s growing interest in the North

The UK has been increasingly vocal on circumpolar issues in recent months. Later on this year, RAF Typhoon fighter jets will participate in NATO Air Policing over Iceland.

Previous announcements also include closer integration of the Royal Marines with the Norwegian military over the next 10 years that will see around 1,000 marines go North per year for cold weather training.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s 2019 budget slim on hard power Arctic commitments, experts say, Radio Canada International

Finland: Will to defend nation, support for NATO membership slides among Finns: survey, Yle News

Iceland: Iceland talks Arctic, Trump’s ditching of climate accord, with U.S. Secretary of State, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: NATO’s Arctic dilemma, Eye on the Arctic 

Sweden: Faced with Trump’s wavering support for NATO, Nordic nations stick together, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: Iceland, U.S. FMs talk Arctic security, defence cooperation at Washington meeting, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is a journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic circumpolar news project. At Eye on the Arctic, Eilís has produced documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the circumpolar world. Her documentary Bridging the Divide was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards. Eilís began reporting on the North in 2001. Her work as a reporter in Canada and the United States, and as TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China" has taken her to some of the world’s coldest regions including the Tibetan mountains, Greenland and Alaska; along with the Arctic regions of Canada, Russia, Norway and Iceland.

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