Iceland's new coalition eyes EU referendum

Iceland's centre-right Independence, Reform and Bright Future parties have agreed to form a coalition government and will give parliament a vote on whether to hold a referendum on joining the European Union.
(From left) Mr Ottarr Proppe, leader of Bright Future, Mr Bjarni Benediktsson, leader of The Independence Party, and Mr Benedikt Johannesson, leader of the Reform party, introducing an agreement on a new coalition government at a press conference in
(From left) Mr Ottarr Proppe, leader of Bright Future, Mr Bjarni Benediktsson, leader of The Independence Party, and Mr Benedikt Johannesson, leader of the Reform party, introducing an agreement on a new coalition government at a press conference in Reykjavik, Iceland, on Jan 10, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

ICELAND (REUTERS) - After months without one, Iceland finally has a new government.

Soon-to-be Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson of The Independence Party made the announcement with his coalition partners Bright Future and the Reform party.

Together, the coalition will hold 32 of the 63 seats in parliament. The Independence Party will have 21 seats, making it the largest party in the coalition.

It has taken four attempts for the country to form a government.

Like almost every government since 1980, all three new ruling parties are centre-right. But when it comes to policies, there's one major disagreement - EU membership.

Membership of the European Union is a controversial and divisive topic amongst Icelanders.

Mr Benediktsson's independence party opposes it, while his partners back joining the EU.

But as a member of the Schengen border-free zone and the single market, Iceland is already deeply integrated with the bloc.

It could quickly fulfil the requirements for EU membership, unlike Balkan candidates and Turkey.

The new government says it will let MPs decide whether to hold a referendum on membership.