Niceair Cancels All UK Flights in June: “Brexit-Related Problems”

Airplane from Niceair

Niceair has cancelled all scheduled flights from Akureyri to the UK in June. The airline has experienced a few so-called “Brexit-related complications” as far as their Iceland-bound passengers are concerned, Vísir reports.

Brexit-related obstacles

Niceair embarked on its maiden flight from Iceland to the UK last week. The plane returned to Iceland empty, however, and travellers who had booked tickets back to Akureyri were forced to fly back with other airlines.

A press release from Niceair today announced that all scheduled flights from Akureyri to the UK in June had been cancelled, Vísir reports. Niceair operates aeroplanes from the Maltese charter airline HiFly, which British authorities maintain lacks the necessary permits to fly to and from the UK.

“They are, nevertheless, listed as certified flight operators by British authorities,” the press release reads. “Furthermore, the authorities stipulated that Niceair, an Icelandic company, secure a British travel-agency licence for the sale of travel packages (flights, hotels, rental cars), which lies beyond the operational purview of Niceair. Nowhere were these conditions mentioned during our three-month application process.”

“As far as we can gather,” the press release continues, “the problem, among other things, is that Iceland has a bilateral agreement with the UK on flight operations, and the UK has a similar agreement with the EU. These two agreements overlap in the UK. The problem arises once you begin transporting passengers from the UK to Iceland with a flight operator that has legal domicile in the EU (and not in Iceland or in the UK).” The press release also notes that it “appears likely” that the British authorities are worried about consumer protection; after Brexit, the UK authorities ceased automatic approval of European consumer legislation.

Unlikely that a solution will be found before the weekend

Despite Niceair working to resolve the matter, it is unlikely that a solution will be found before the weekend.

“We’ve worked non-stop to find a solution and have proposed numerous solutions to the British authorities,” the press release reads. “We’ve been aided by the Icelandic Transport Authority, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the British Embassy in Iceland – but no solution has been found. The weekend is fast approaching, and it sounds like a solution is unlikely before that time, owing to a lack of personnel and time.”

Travellers will be unable to book flights to the UK until a permanent solution is found. All passengers who had booked flights to the UK with the airline will be offered a refund. Niceair will also assist those looking to find alternative flights to or from the UK.

Mbl.is reported this afternoon that about 70 passengers who had flights booked to London with Niceair were waiting at the Akureyri airport. Their flight had been scheduled for yesterday evening but had been pushed back to noon today.

Icelandic Seafood Export Bypasses UK Due to Brexit Delays

fishing regulations iceland

Icelandic seafood exporters have needed to adapt to a changed situation in the UK by shipping seafood to Europe through Rotterdam instead of Immingham, Fiskifréttir newspaper reported today. Hopefully, the changes are temporary. Iceland’s seafood export to the UK is one of the issues still up for discussion in Iceland’s trade deal with the UK, which is still to be finalised.

Considerable delays and interruptions have occurred in seafood transport from the UK to countries in the European Union following the Uk’s final exit from the union at the end of last year. Icelandic shipping companies have been affected by delays and have had to adapt to the situation, especially regarding seafood products they have transported to Europe via the UK. Fresh fish has up until now been regularly shipped to Immingham in the UK, loaded on to trucks and driven to France. According to Eimskip representative Björn Einarsson, customers have stopped using the UK as a transit harbour for mainland Europe, due to delays in the Channel Tunnel and tariff issues at the UK-France border. Fresh fish is now shipping directly to Rotterdam instead of going through Europe. “People have adapted their shipping procedures so that the product goes straight to market in Europe through Rotterdam without passing through the UK.” According to Björn, this has not impacted distribution within the UK or export to the UK.

Samskip representative Þórunn Inga Ingjaldsdóttir states that it’s too soon to draw conclusions regarding the future only two weeks into the new year. “Delays surrounding Brexit were foreseen.” Exporters have been anticipating this moment for a while now as EU-UK negotiations stretched on. “We’d changed our system a while ago to be able to continue servicing our customers that ship directly to the European markets,” stated Þórunn Inga. She added that Samskip makes it clear that the situation is temporary. “We’ve worked hard to keep up delivery schedules and a high level of service with our customers and friends in the UK.”

In an interview with Viðskiptablaðið today, Minister of Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson discusses changes to Iceland-UK business relations due to Brexit. While temporary deals with the UK are in place, Guðlaugur notes that despite Brexit finally being a reality, there are still plenty of things to settle regarding trade. As part of the EEA, Iceland is bound in certain ways and until the EU’s Brexit deal was in place, EEA negotiations have been on hold.

When it comes to UK-Iceland trade negotiations, seafood is the most important. “If you were to generalise about the UK, they tend to eat fish caught by other nations while exporting the fish caught in their own fishing jurisdiction.” He mentions as an example the quintessentially British dish of fish and chips, which is, by and large, prepared using Icelandic cod. The UK is also Iceland’s largest export market for lamb. Guðlaugur Þór claimed it was important on this occasion to look at the big picture and continue working towards increased cooperation between nations in Europe, stating: “The UK needs Europe and Europe needs the UK. Cooperation is necessary for more fields than trade.” He added that the EEA states have had no trouble cooperating with the countries of the EU and therefore, there shouldn’t have to be any problems for the UK to continue to work closely with other European countries.

Brexit Brings No Immediate Changes for Icelanders Living in UK

Great Britain’s official exit from the European Union on Friday night won’t have any immediate ramifications for Icelanders who have settled in the country, Vísir reports. Nevertheless, authorities have urged Icelanders intending to remain in the UK after that time to take steps to secure residence permits in advance.

British Ambassador Michael Nevin has stressed that for the time being at least, nothing has really changed; the UK will still abide by European Union laws and regulations until December 31, 2020. He also noted that Icelandic tourists to the UK will be able to enter the country as usual until the same date. “There will be some new regulations after that,” he said, “but Britain will remain open to Icelanders.”

Icelanders who live in the UK now and intend to remain in 2021 and beyond are reminded, however, to apply for a ‘settled status’ residence permit. It’s estimated that 2-3,000 Icelanders live in the UK and thus far, 1,100 have applied for settled status. Stefán Haukur Jóhannesson, Iceland’s ambassador in London, says the deadline is June 30, but urges Icelanders not to wait til the last minute. “It’s not hard to do—there’s an app,” he remarked.

Iceland and UK both “free trade-minded”

Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson says the next step will be for Iceland to establish new agreements with the UK. Trade and business will be foremost among Iceland’s priorities when negotiating, particularly as regards the fishing industry.

“One of the things we’ve placed an emphasis on is having better access than we currently do via EEA agreements when it comes to marine products,” remarked Guðlaugur. “Because although our current access is good, we’re still not talking about a total absence of customs duties.”

The outlook for favourable trade arrangements with the UK currently seems good for Iceland. For one, both Iceland and the UK are “free trade-minded” says Ambassador Nevin. “We don’t like customs duties and have a high regard for the values of the free market. Which is why we want a trade agreement that doesn’t create any obstacles between us.”

Brexit Likely to Cost Icelanders, Study Shows

Minister for Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson.

If the UK leaves the European Union without a deal, it could cost each Icelander ISK 13,000-22,000 ($107-180/€95-161) per year, according to a German study on the economic effects of Brexit. The study, carried out by Bertlesmann Stiftung, found the UK’s departure from the EU to have negative consequences both for the United Kingdom and all countries belonging to the European Economic Area. Kjarninn reported first.

Soft Brexit would mitigate impact

Bertlesmann Stiftung’s report asserts Iceland’s economic losses as a result of Brexit could amount to a 0.3% drop in GDP, or around ISK 22,000 ($180/€161) per resident per year in the case of a “hard Brexit” (departure with no deal). If the UK leaves after negotiating an agreement with the EU, however, those losses would be mitigated and would amount to a 0.18% contraction in GDP and a loss of ISK 13,000 ($107/€95) per person per year.

Iceland would not be among the countries hardest hit by UK’s departure: Ireland, the Netherlands, and Belgium, would face a sharper economic downturn from the event, though Iceland and Norway, due to their proximity to the UK and high productivity, would experience high risk if an agreement is not reached between the UK and the EU regarding the former’s departure, the study predicts.

Worst-case scenario unlikely

According to Iceland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the government has been working hard to secure key interests that would be impacted by Brexit, and has made agreements with UK authorities on issues such as continuing rights of residents, trade, and aviation.

Iceland and UK Reach Short Term Brexit Agreement

Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson.

Iceland and the UK reached a trade agreement yesterday which allows trade to continue unchanged between the countries if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal, RÚV reports. Though the agreement is temporary, Iceland’s Foreign Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson says he is hopeful relations will continue to be good between the two countries. The contract is set to be signed next week.

“It’s been some time since we concluded the agreements if they [leave the EU] with a deal. What we had concluded if they went out without a deal was air travel and citizens’ rights. But merchandise trade was left and now that’s been completed and we will be signing it soon,” stated Guðlaugur Þór. “The next project is the future arrangement in relations between the UK and Iceland.”

The contract in question is a short-term solution meant to ensure the continuation of trade between the countries. Nevertheless, Guðlaugur Þór stated, “We have been very pleased with relations with the Brits and expect nothing but a good outcome for the future relations of the nations.” Agreements yet to be made between the UK and EU could affect Iceland-UK relations.

Iceland and UK Reach Withdrawal Agreement

Iceland and the UK have come to a reciprocal agreement which “protects the rights of our respective citizens in each other’s countries, based on the similar Withdrawal Agreement made with the EU.” So confirmed an announcement made by Michael Nevin, the British ambassador to Iceland, on the UK in Iceland Facebook page on Thursday.

The agreement, which also extends to citizens of Norway and Liechtenstein, ensures that British citizens currently living in Iceland – 1,591 people as of January 1, 2018 – can “go on living here” after the UK leaves the EU. It also guarantees that the over 15,000 nationals from Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein who live in the UK will not be deported from their homes after Brexit.

“It means that UK and Icelandic citizens living in each other’s countries at the end of the implementation period in December 2020 will be able to continue on with their lives,” affirmed Nevin. Importantly, “[t]he agreement includes continuity arrangements on residency, healthcare, pensions and education, social security coordination and mutual recognition of defined professional qualifications. It will enable families who have built their lives together in the UK or Iceland to stay together.”

Nevin also emphasizes that “both the UK and Iceland governments have made commitments to each other’s citizens in the event of “no deal”. Citizens resident in our respective countries at the time of the UK’s departure from the EU will be able to continue living, working and studying here and in the UK as before.”

Although specific instructions regarding “administrative arrangements” for British citizens living in Iceland have yet to be finalised, the agreement undoubtedly will come as a relief to citizens on both sides who have been living in a state of limbo for some time.

“I hope that brings some certainty for your own future during a time of change,” writes Nevin. “The Iceland government is as keen as we are to not only ensure that you go on living here if you want to, but also to work as partners in trying to resolve any issues you still might have.”

Read the official statements on the Icelandic governmental website and on the UK governmental website.

Brits Could Learn From Icelandic Fishing Expertise, Says Minister

The British could learn about creating a fisheries policy from Icelanders says Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Iceland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. RÚV reports that Guðlaugur says that Iceland is prepared to lend the UK a hand in the task, which is one of the many logistical projects that the latter needs to resolve in advance of Brexit.

“The British have shown a lot of interest in our fishing system and they aren’t alone in that,” said Guðlaugur in an interview with RÚV. He noted that Michael Gove, Britain’s current Secretary of State for the Environment, has visited Iceland, “among other things, to familiarize himself with this very thing.”

Other nations have also shown an interest in Iceland’s sustainable fishing industry, Guðlaugur continued. “Last time I checked, we are the only nation within the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] which is getting a net tax from natural fishing resources or from the fishing industry as a whole,” he said.

Guðlaugur’s comments came in the wake of an article published in the UK paper The Telegraph which announced that “Iceland holds secrets of success for fishing after Brexit.” He was, in fact, quoted in the article, pointing Iceland’s expertise in this area. However, the British government has of yet not taken Guðlaugur up on his proffered guidance.