Argentina wants to claim the Falklands, but Britain’s not having it

UK says “hands off our islands”

The British government’s latest military manoeuvre seems fresh out of a Monty Python sketch: 150 British soldiers who just returned from a tour in Afghanistan are being redeployed to the Falkland Islands, a land mass roughly the size of Connecticut, almost 13,000 km from Britain.

The saga began this month, when Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner published a letter in two British newspapers staking her claim on the Falklands (the Malvinas, as they are known there), which are just off Argentina’s coast. “In a blatant exercise of 19th-century colonialism,” she wrote, “Argentina was forcibly stripped of the Malvinas.” Fernández urged the UN to restore the islands’ “territorial integrity.” British Prime Minister

David Cameron didn’t miss a beat, quickly appearing on the BBC to declare his “extremely strong” resolve to keep the islands British. Already, military chiefs have drawn up plans to prevent hostile action by Argentina, London’s Telegraph reports.

Of course, we’ve been here before. And memories of 1982 are certainly guiding Cameron’s hand, says Graham Stewart, author of A History of Britain in the 1980s. That year, prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s firm action during the 10-week Falklands War—which cost 650 Argentine and 250 British lives—helped solidify her political support, and shape her legacy. “Cameron is clearly aware of the legacy,” says Stewart.

Most of the 3,000 Falklanders, who make their money in fishing and wool, “feel firmly British,” says Falklands MP Richard Sawle. Each year on June 14, Falklanders celebrate “Liberation Day,” the day in 1982 when British troops gave Argentina the boot. But Argentina has appeared increasingly belligerent on the issue—possibly due to the commercial quantities of oil that have recently been found around the islands. As tensions escalate, Falklanders are preparing for a March referendum on the matter of their territorial status. Falklands MP Barry Elsby anticipates “at least 98 per cent” will vote to remain British. In the meantime, in response to President Fernández’s entreaty, Britain’s Sun published an ad in the Buenos Aires Herald, issuing a stern warning to Argentina: “HANDS OFF!”




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Argentina wants to claim the Falklands, but Britain’s not having it

  1. Great read!

  2. A few little corrections:

    The Falkland Islands have a Legislative Assembly, so the members are MLAs rather than MPs

    There has been a company of regular infantry posted to the Falklands for the past 30 years as a deterrent to Argentina. These 150 troops of B Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Mercian Regiment are being posted to replace a different company of infantry, who will be coming home.

    The article also implies that the one company of Light Infantry is the sum total of the Garrison. It isn’t. There is also an assortment of other Army units (including an awful lot of anti-aircraft troops), two helicopters, a marine patrol aircraft, an aerial tanker aircraft, oh and four multirole fighters. The total number of UK troops on the Falkland Islands is roughly 1200.

    The Falklands also has it’s own dedicated patrol ship, plus the UK’s Ice Patrol Ship would be close at hand, as would be a Replenishment Oiler, and one major surface combatant (either a Type 45 air defense destroyer or a Type 23 general purpose frigate) that would be around the South Atlantic somewhere. Not to mention that the UK does have six operational nuclear powered submarines that are around somewhere (with another launched and trialed and going into operation at some point this year).

    I think Cameron might be aware of some of the accusations after the war in 1982 that Britain somehow provoked Argentina into invading the Falkland Islands by reducing the (already token) defensive presence, somehow making the Junta believe that the UK wouldn’t object to an invasion of the islands. By clearly stating (when asked) that the Falklands would be defended by whatever means necessary then Britain cannot reasonably be accused of somehow being provocatively trusting of Argentina. Especially as the Argentine Defense Minister has gone on record (last August) stated that the British military presence was the only thing stopping them invading.

    • Wrong…the argentine defense minister didn’t said that…he sayd the only thing stopping argentina to restore their territorial integrity was the UK….which is not the same thing..

      • It wouldn’t be the first time that Argentina launched a surprise attack on a neighbour. How Britian is militarising the region by having 1500 personnel there to DEFEND the islands while Argentina keeps 71,000 troops stationed in Argentina. The purpose of the British troops is to defend the Islanders. They are no real threat to Argentina they would never be able to occupy a country of 41 million people no matter how cruddy their military.

      • Sounds like the same thing to me.

        Incidentally, if the Falkland Islands are integral to Argentine territory, based on a rather questionable claim dating back over 180 years then how come all of Argentina south of the Colorado river (i.e. about half of what is now Argentina) is an integral part?
        It certainly wasn’t in 1833, the “conquest of the desert” (aka attempted genocide and ethnic cleansing of half of Patagonia) wasn’t until the 1870s.

        Shouldn’t Argentina “decolonize” Patagonia as a sign of good faith before claiming the Falklands?

  3. I want to say somethings that Canadians, british, or other Anglo people maybe not know…

    In the Islands the islanders are not self sufficient as the UK says….almost the 80% of the islanders “work” providing food, joy, etc to the british militaries…so without the UK, 80% of the islanders would lose their jobs…and ALL of them work in a company Called “FIC” (Falkland Island Company) which is a monopoly that controls EVERY economic thing in the islands and it’s a British owned company…

    And just a little history for the ones who call Margaret Thatcher “the iron lady”…her husband was an oiler entrepreneur…and he had shares on the “FIC”
    so like it or not…Margaret Thatcher did not only “fought” the war because of popularity, but to protect her husband’s money using public budget from the UK…
    The islanders still are a colony, they are not self sufficient at all…

    • You are talking rubbish, Denis Thatchers oil company had no assets in the Falkland Islands and he retired in the 1970s. What evidence do you have that the family had major business interests in the Islands? There was massive support for liberating the Falkland Islands, not unanimous but massive, any British PM would be likely to liberate the islands. It is not true that 80% of the Islanders work for the military. The FIC is only one employer on the Islands and surely if they were being controlled by a monopoly they would want to change the arrangements not consistently vote to keep it.

  4. Phoenix is incredibly misinformed – the Falklands is economically self sufficient apart from defence. 80 % of Islanders do NOT work for the military – civilian workers at RAF Mount Pleasant are from the UK, Chile or St Helena. The Falkland Islands Government is still the biggest employer, however, all other Islanders either own their businesses or work, for example, for the fishing industry, tourism, or for various local businesses. The FIC is a relatively small employer of Islanders – it once owned large swathes of the Falklands but that land was purchased by the government in the 1980s, subdivided and sold to Islanders – most farms are now run by Islands’ families.
    Most of the government’s income is from the squid fishery, cruise tourism, oil exploration licenses and taxation of Islanders, local businesses and very recently oil exploration companies and employees.
    The Falklands is a British Overseas Territory (not a colony) it has no external debt (unlike almost every other country in the world) and it’s intention in the future is to contribute to defence once funds become available from oil exploitation.

    • you are terrible misinformed…the islands are not self sufficient….mostly work to supply the army…and the one who controls fishery, oil, turism etc its the FIC…the only thing just a few islanders have from FIC are shares, but they do not even have the 5% of the shares…

      The Islands are a colony, no matter what the UK say, because the Last word its from the UN…and the UN had said the solution were negotiations between argentina and the UK, it not mentions the islanders as a second or third party in the dispute, and called it a territorial dispute…ergo self determination is not applied but territorial integrity…

      • The islands are quite big FIC owns 6 shops, 1 cafe, 23 residential properties, 362 acres around Stanley and 21 of the smaller undeveloped islands. Also a freight company and an insurance agency. This probably makes them the largest private employer on the Islands. They have minimal involvement tourism, and as fishing or oil licenses are sold by the democratically elected government and the revenues used for public services I think your assessment is quite misleading.

        The UNs objective is to end colonisation but it has been made quite clear that colonisation should be ended by allowing the people who live there the chance to decide their own future. You need to decide whether the problem of the Islands is whether it is a colony or a territorial dispute. If it is a colony they have the right to self determination. If it is a territorial dispute then why are we not looking at other territorial disputes going back to 1833. Is Argentina willing to return to all its 1832 borders? No I thought not. The dispute was settled by peace treaty in 1850, and again by Argentinas chosen method of dispute resolution in 1982.

      • …because the Last word its from the UN…and the UN had said the solution were negotiations between argentina and the UK, it not mentions the islanders as a second or third party in the dispute, and called it a territorial dispute…ergo self determination is not applied but territorial integrity…

        So the UN gets to decide these things now does it? This might be news to you, but the UN doesn’t get the “last word” in any dispute between sovereign nations. It never did.

        • haha you ask for a UN right and then you dont want to listen to the UN… that shows the british doble standard

  5. Fact check 1: Falklands ownership history runs something like this: France, then Spain, then Britain, then no one, then Britain, then Argentina, then Britain, then Argentina, then Britain. Argentina had control for a total of about ten years.

    Fact check 2: The Falklands are not “just offshore,” but rather 500km from Argentina, about the distance from Scotland to Norway.

    • Falklands ownership runs more like this
      1. no permanent residents but temporary residents from Britain, America and Scandinavia.
      2. France had a permanent settlement for several months before.
      3. Britain set up a permanent settlement on a different part of the Islands.
      4. Spain acquired the French settlement by threatening France.
      5. Spain expelled the British settlement by force.
      6. Spain signed treaty which allowed the British settlement to return.
      7. Britain removed their settlement but did not renounce their claim.
      8. Spain removed their settlement but did not renounce their claim.
      9. No permanent settlement.
      10. Commercial settlement formed by Louis Vernet with permission of Britain and Argentina.
      11. Settlement removed by the Americans after and Louis Vernet taken to Montevideo to face charges of piracy.
      12. New settlement formed by Louis Vernet.
      13. Argentina name Louis Vernet their governor in the Islands and send a military occupation force.
      14. Britain send Navy to remove Argentine garrison the civilian population stays and are left with flag wh colonists to raise when ships visit.
      15. 5 colonists including the former Argentine governors deputy are murdered.
      16. Britain formerly claims all the islands and appoints an administrator and establishes law and order.
      17. Argentina protests for 16 years before finally signing a peace treaty and then drops their claims for almost 100 years.

      • Yes. So Argentina has no treaty claim, no legal claim, no territorial-waters claim, no proximity claim, no “uti possidetis” claim. Historical claims, if any, would logically be in line only behind France, Spain and Britain.

        It’s really just one example of Argentina’s fundamental problem: lack of property rights stability. Last year’s expropriation of assets from multinationals is another example. Property rights instability is a chief cause of slow industrialization and tiny middle class, according to the recognized authority on the subject, Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto Solar.

  6. Interesting article about this source of pride and face-saving for the UK.

    Not sure, however, why the author tried to build some context around the size of the Falklands by saying it is “roughly the size of Connecticut”.
    Where?
    Why would some random province/state/whatever in the US be more relevant and known to Macleans readership than the actual island area in question? Of course there are some Canadians always eager to prove their unfailing loyalty and knowledge of the States (you?) but for the rest of us, could you please use a closer to home and better known illustration? Might I even make a suggestion? Vancouver Island is almost identical in size, an island, and Canadian.

    • I think it’s a unit of measure issue. Canada simply doesn’t have any states or territories that are of a similar size. The Falkland Islands are a little bigger than two Prince Edward Islands, or about 22% of the size of Nova Scotia.
      The US does have first level (i.e. Provinces, Territories or States in the Canadian and US context respectively) that come in a variety of smaller sizes (they do have 50 states and a district in a smaller area than the ten provinces and three territories of Canada, so it’s hardly surprising).

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