With the imminent anniversary of the war and Prince Harry’s posting, theFalklandsare in the news again. About two years ago I wrote on this topic, and I briefly reviewed the history ofBritain’s connection with the islands. Recapping: The Spanish were the first to discover the islands but left –an Englishman visited them and named them ‘Hawkins Maidenland’, but left them uninhabited – another Brit landed there 100years later, and named the channel between the islands Falkland sound, but left again – the French were the first to establish a settlement in 1764 – the British established another settlement two years later on the opposite side of the main island – the Spanish acquired the French settlement in 1767 and subsequently drove the British off – following a treaty the Spanish allowed the British to return in 1771 – both the Spanish and the Brits were claiming sovereignty – the British left again in 1774, leaving behind a plaque claiming sovereignty – Spain maintained a settlement there under control of Buenos Aires until they left in 1811 when they too left and left a plaque asserting their claim – in 1820 the Argentines raised their flag on what were uninhabited islands and went on to establish a settlement and a penal colony – in 1831, during a dispute with the Argentines, the Americans attacked the settlement and left behind a population of settlers and ex-prisoners – an attempt by the Argentines to re-establish control was defeated by the settlers. In 1833 the British landed forces and informed the Argentines that they intended to reassert sovereignty. They allowed the settlers to remain and appointed one of them as governor.
It is clear that both British and Argentines have a plausible claim to the islands and it is reasonable to argue that the ancestors of some of the ‘British’ islanders of today were, in fact, Argentines. Historically, of course,Argentinadid not exist as an independent nation until 1816. I do not know the origin of the name ‘Argentina’, (I assume there are silver mines there?) As recently as 1776 the area was Spanish and known as the Viceroyalty of theRio de la Plata.
It has always been my view that the war should never have been allowed to happen, negotiations with perhaps a view of moving towards joint sovereignty could have avoided the loss of so many lives and the enormous financial cost of the war. The British government had sent out all the wrong signals before the war, withdrawing the one Royal Navy ship, HMS Endurance, and ending the arrangement where all islanders automatically became British citizens. The government’s position had been stated that the islands did not “possess political, strategic or economic importance”, a few years before the war Lord Shackleton had said that theFalklandsindependence could be economically viable. All this tended to give the impression thatBritainwas no longer so concerned with the islands’ future. Unfortunately the war and the possibility of oil beneath the sea has made it more difficult for the British to contemplate relinquishing any degree of sovereignty but it is time to give consideration to negotiations
It is very doubtful that we could provide an adequate force to resist an all out invasion by the Argentines at this time, neither could we readily contemplate the cost. The cost of the last war in money and lives was unacceptable. Apart from the incalculable value of lives lost, the financial cost of the war was put at