"The New Falklands Conflict" Bow Group Chairman Q&A in La Razon

Foreign Affairs & Security
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Ben Harris-Quinney

-The Argentine government has demanded renewed talks about the islands, which Argentina calls Las Malvinas. ¿Is this a provocation or the right decision?

The issue of the ownership of the Falkland Islands is one that has been resolved in bitter conflict, therefore the Argentine people clearly continue to feel dispossessed. The recent growth of the Argentine economy, and the the discovery of oil within the Falklands territory has given the debate renewed vigour in Argentina. We are, however, not in the era of Western history when governance of a land is decided by autocratic means, it is decided by the will of the people. It is therefore a decision of the people of the Falkland Islands as to who should govern them and under which nationality they should fall. It is apparent that they wish to remain a British territory.

-Mr Cameron said they would stay British for as long as the islanders want. Would the islanders ever ask for a referendum to decide their future with UK?

If the islanders do ask for a referendum then, as has been seen recently with the Scottish question in the UK, the UK government would begin the process to offer such a referendum.

-How was the relationship between UK and Argentina before this incident? ¿Does this incident write another chapter between two countries?

It is a great shame that many have forgotten the era of the early to mid 20th century when the UK was Argentina's principle trading partner. Equally at a time when the economy of Latin America is growing exponentially there is great opportunity to renew partnership and trade between Argentina, the UK and EU. There has been evidence of trade growth between the UK and Argentina since the Falklands War, but this has been severely jeopordised recently by the renewed tensions over the islands, and the shipping ban enacted by Mercosur. At this current time these diplomatic tensions are relatively insignificant in the context of history, but if they continue it could form an unfortunate chapter in relations between the two nations.

-In December, the Mercosur grouping of countries, which includes Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay, announced that it would ban ships sailing under the Falkland Islands flag from docking at their ports. ¿What are the consequences for the islanders? 

This is more of a signal of aggression than a fundamental threat to the islands prosperity in itself. The Falkland islanders are able to register their ships in other territories, and will do so if necessary.

-Do you think that this incident will be resolved with British military deployment on the isle as happened 30 years ago?

Deployment of British Armed Forces is never a decision that is taken lightly, and David Cameron would only issue the order to deploy in the most severe circumstances, when all diplomatic avenues have been exhausted. As with any other territory however, if British lives and livlihoods are in perilous danger then the final option of military deployment must be used in their robust defence.

-30 years ago Thatcher won so much popularity with the Falklands war. What would be the effect for Cameron?

In terms of their stance on military intervention when British interests are at stake there are similarities between Thatcher and Cameron, both apply the same robust and unswerving view of the necessity to protect not only British interests, but also the rights of freedom and democracy anywhere in the world. Cameron's leadership on the Libyan conflict proved this. Where the situation differs is that British forces are currently deployed in other theatres, most notably Afghanistan and therefore forces are under operational strain. David Cameron will gain support in taking robust action in the Falklands, but he will do so equally if the situation is resolved conclusively without the necessity to deploy a British armed forces already under the stress of overseas deployment and cuts.

-Do the Liberal Democrat Party agree with Cameron on this issue or there are different opinions within the coalition?

Not only is there strong agreement that the Falkland islanders should decide their own fate among members of the Coalition Government, but indeed across all parties. This is not only a question of nationality but also of a peoples right to determine their own fate.

- Is the decision to deploy Prince William to the islands related to the renewed tensions?

The decision to deploy Prince William as a pilot on the islands is not related to any conflict between the UK and Argentina past or present and is merely an aspect of the military search and rescue career to which he has shown great commitment and proficiency.

Read the original article at La Razon Digital here.