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 is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying a culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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