UK 'will get Iceland money back'

image captionMr Grimsson had refused to sign the latest repayment plan, triggering the referendum

Iceland's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson has said that the UK and the Netherlands will get back the 4bn euros (£3.5bn) they paid when Iceland's banking system collapsed in 2008.

That is despite the country rejecting the latest repayment plan in a referendum at the weekend.

Mr Grimsson told the BBC assets from the collapsed bank Landsbanki would "in all likelihood" cover what was owed.

The UK has said the matter will go to an international court.

The Netherlands has also expressed its intention to lobby the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to try to make sure Iceland repays its debts.

"We want to get the IMF aligned as much as possible to make sure there is an irreversible obligation for Iceland to meet its agreements," said Dutch finance minister Jan Kees de Jager in his country's parliament.

Iceland's three main banks collapsed in October 2008.

Landsbanki ran savings accounts in the UK and the Netherlands under the name Icesave.

When it collapsed, the British and Dutch governments had to reimburse 400,000 citizens - and Iceland had to decide how to repay that money.

Guarantee question

The weekend result marked the second time a referendum has rejected a repayment deal.

Mr Grimsson said that it was not an issue about paying or not paying, but a question of whether there is a state guarantee and how that would be interpreted under the European regulatory framework.

"I think the primary message [from the referendum] is that before ordinary people are asked to pay for failed banks, the assets inside the estate of these banks should be used to pay the subs," Mr Grimsson told Radio 4's Today.

"That is why the people of Iceland emphasised that Britain and the Netherlands are going to get certainly up to $9bn out of the estate of Landsbanki.

"The first payment will be this December, and in all likelihood this will cover what was paid by Britain and the Netherlands two years ago.

"But to ask for a state guarantee and that ordinary people should shoulder the responsibility is highly doubtful and definitely can be disputed within the European legislative framework."

But he added that if the matter did end up in an international court, "of course" Iceland would abide by the court's ruling.

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