Friday, February 19, 2010

Back to 1982?

Back to 1982?

A faltering economy, an unpopular Prime Minister, an increasingly desperate Argentine Government making bellicose noises about their rights to the Falkland Islands…  Hey ho, back we go to 1982.  Probably not though.

Argentina, with an election of their own coming up, use the ‘Malvinas’ as a traditional patriotic rallying point.  Charter flights between the Islands and Argentina have been suspended, Argentine scientists banned from taking part in a binational commission on fishing, and now vessels sailing to the Falklands through Argentine waters will require a permit.  The oil that has been discovered in Falklands water won’t help.

A large body of opinion has it that British claims to the Falklands are weak – based as they are only on occupancy and sovereignty since 1833.  Argentina, on the other hand, points out that the Islands are a touch closer to Argentina than they are to the UK and that there was briefly an Argentine penal colony before the re-assumed British occupation.  They did try to settle the issue once, but were notably unsuccessful.

Bien-pensant opinion on this has been clear for decades, and is admirably summed up in the Guardian today.

Patriotism and posturing on both sides has obstructed what would otherwise be the natural way forward, a pooling of sovereignty that would allow the islands to develop normal relations with their nearest neighbour.

Leaving aside the fact that the thing that would best enable the Islanders to develop normal relations with their nearest neighbour would be that nearest neighbour growing up a bit and stopping placing so many petty restrictions on the Islands, there is another fly in the ointment.  The inhabitants of the Falkland Islands are full British citizens.  There can be no transfer of sovereignty unless they agree to it.  And they don’t.  It can be inconvenient, democracy, but we are stuck with it.  The Guardian may deplore that fact, but that’s where we are.


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