11 APR 2011
By Sarah Arnott | The Independent
Icelanders have voted a second resounding "no" to proposals to repay €4bn (£3.5bn) to Britain and the Netherlands for the collapse of the country's banking system.
When Landsbanki went under in 2008, the British and Dutch governments reimbursed nearly 400,000 people in danger of losing savings held in the Icelandic bank's "Icesave" accounts.
After 60 per cent of Iceland's voters at the weekend rejected a repayment plan, the issue will now be decided by the European Free Trade Association (Efta) Surveillance Authority court.
Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, described the outcome as "disappointing" yesterday and said the British Government would continue to pursue the matter. "There is a legal process and we will try to make sure we do get back the money that the British Government paid out," he said.
Jan Kees de Jager, the Dutch Finance Minister, was more strident still. "The time for negotiations is over. Iceland remains obliged to repay," he said. "The issue is now for the courts to decide."
Iceland's Prime Minister, Johanna Sigurdardottir, said yesterday that Icelanders had chosen "the worst option" in rejecting the repayment plan. But Reykjavik also played down the impact of the vote, stressing that the vote would not affect payments to come from the Landsbanki estate to "priority claimants" – including the British and Dutch authorities – which should cover nearly a third of priority claims.
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