Monday, January 7, 2013

The cost of maintaining the Falklands

This article of mine was published on Saturday in News Junkie Post, though it might have been early Sunday morning here in the UK. It alarmed me to learn how much we are paying in taxes to defend the few families who live on the Falkland Islands. One Falkland Islander took the trouble to put his/her case against the article and I can see where that person is coming from.

I am a Falkland Islander and I would like to respond to some of the points of this article.
Firstly, the Falkland Islands is not a colony, lets make that completely clear. We have our own democracy and civil service. We are self-governing, meaning we set our own budgets, policies, taxes etc, however Britain helps us with defence and foreign affairs. This neatly leads us on to the nature of the article, quite a misleading one.
The Falklands is hugely appreciative of our defence and we will never forget the people who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom in 1982. But lets make it completely clear (are you reading this Fernando?) the defence is there because of a very real threat. Just under 31 years ago an aggressive nation invaded our islands and forced an administration upon the islanders that was alien and unwanted. That is why the islands need military defence. It is not a conspiracy of Britain trying to invade South America, (which Argentina alludes to), it is not to force us Islanders to be British and it is not to maintain the Falklands, it is purely for our defence (30 years is not a long time and my family lived through the war).
The Falklands and its people would love nothing more to live in peace and not require a military defence, but it is Argentina’s fault for why we have one. Argentina continues to threaten us, maybe not through military means (even though the Argentine Defence Minister did admit that the current British military presence was the only thing that was preventing Argentina moving in) but through economic and diplomatic. Argentina is trying to destroy our economy and force us to hand our home to them.
The Falkland Islanders have human rights, just like anyone else on the planet. We can determine our political, economic, cultural and social future, and we do that now. Under Argentine control, we would not be given the same rights. The Islands would be controlled remotely from Buenos Aries and not by democratically elected individuals like we enjoy now.
Our defence is costly, but we are British citizens facing a very real threat, just because we are only 3,000 strong and live 8,000 miles away means we are not entitled to have our human rights and freedom guaranteed?
I would be the last to deny anybody their human rights, especially with recent abuses in the west, and agree that Falkland Islanders are as much entitled to theirs as we are to ours. Having lived on an island, the Isle of Man, I suspect that the above comment is based in ignorance of the unknown. The Isle of Man has one of the oldest parliaments in Europe, Tynwald, but nobody speaks Norwegian there any more. What's more the last Manx-speaking resident died some years back. Manx is a kind of Gaelic which is still on the school curriculum. For historians it is useful but unlikely to replace English in the short term. When I lived on the Isle of Man anybody who was not born there was called a 'comeover'. It wasn't really racist, more a kind of friendly banter, though you always got some who took it to an extreme.

If residents of an insular island community have only ever known one way of life and only ever spoken one language on a day-to-day basis the unknown looks foreboding, whereas cities like London, or Birmingham, or Buenos Aires are cosmopolitan and places where people of all races and backgrounds have had to get along. I would like to see the Falkland Islands reach a negotiated settlement with the UK and Argentina, to continue to have its own administration, which includes representation from all parties with an interest. My vision is for the Falklands to be a bit like the Channel Islands, where French and English are spoken, except where tax-exiles are not allowed to reside.

However, the whole process of settlement gets off on the wrong foot if Falkland Islanders, Argentinians or British, begin by apportioning blame, as the person who left the above comment does. Any islander in the 20 to 30 age group, that is, the generation on whom the immediate future depends, will have no knowledge of what happened in 1982, except from what older residents have told them. It is a good time to negotiate a peaceful settlement that does not include long-term expenditure from the UK taxpayer and satisfies the needs of Falkland Islanders and Argentinians alike. The Argentinians too should spend their money on improving the infrastructure of the islands if they wish to jointly inhabit them. We in the UK have needs of our own. A negotiated settlement is the only way forward in the long term. I would like to ask the Falkland Islander two questions. Is a negotiated settlement a reasonable proposition? Is it reasonable to ask the UK taxpayer to continue to fund Falkland households to the tune of £90,000 every year?


  1. "Any islander in the 20 to 30 age group, that is, the generation on whom the immediate future depends, will have no knowledge of what happened in 1982, except from what older residents have told them."

    True, those born after 1982 won't remember 1982 (they'll still see the Argentine minefields being slowly cleared, but setting that aside for the moment) they will remember the actions of both Kirchner presidents though.

    They'll remember who tore up the joint fisheries agreement, the joint oil exploration agreement, hell even the commission about not using place names that were invented in 1982 (Puerto Argentino being the obvious one).
    They'll remember the attempts to destroy their economy and blockade them.
    They'll have heard about the harassment of fishing vessels even though they were in Falklands water or international water.
    They'll have heard the Argentine Minister of Defence stating that if it wasn't for the British military presence then they'd have invaded again (this was August 2012).

    They're British, they deserve and are entitled to the same protection that you or I would expect. Would you be happy to have the threat of armed thugs invading your home and the police being more concerned about the cost of protecting you than the danger that you were in?

  2. You completely missed the point Rufus. You've taken one sentence out of context and not answered the questions posed at the end. They are not British. The very first remark made by Falkland Islander states that. And the second, third and fourth. I don't know where you're coming from, or what your agenda is. It is clearly not one of mutual cooperation.

  3. I suggest that the REAL reason for the UK position on the Falklands has nothing to do with the 'wishes of the Falkland Islanders' themselves. They are useful only in so far as they can be used to whip up patriotic outrage in a gullible population at home, whenever the question of sovereignty arises.

    The REAL but carefully hidden/obfuscated reason concerns litoral rights, especially in respect of claims to Antarctica and Falklands territotial waters; considerable expenditure is seen as justifiable in their defence. OK, since 1982 especially, status and saving face is still a factor in the die-hard Imperial mindset of the UK Foreign Office, but not the clincher.

    For a stark illustration of why this is so, consider the treatment of a similar sized population with similar claims to settled status on a similar sized British Overseas Territoy - namely the Chagos Islands, when the US required a depopulated Diego Garcia for a Military base. A useful resume of the comparisons is here

  4. We are British. At what point did I say that myself and the Falklands are not British? I really don't understand how you made that assumption? It is 100% wrong. We are British. I see more Union Flags in one day in Stanley than I saw in 5 years of living in Britain. To say we are not British only highlights your ignorance on the subject and is disrespectful for the Falklands, its people and more importantly to the 255 service people who died proteting our desire to remain British.

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  7. John, to suggest that Argentina, Britain and the Falklands should all work together for the benefit of the Falklands, clearly shows your ignorance on the subject.

    Firstly, Argentina wants a complete and 100% transfer in sovereignty of the Falklands, it is written into its Constitution. Anything less will violate their constitution.

    Secondly, Argentina would never allow the Islanders to live their way of life. In 1982 (when Argentina invaded) they claimed that they would respect the Islanders wishes, but then changed the names of the Islands and its settlements, changed the language, changed the currency, changed what side of the road we drove on etc, etc. And if Argentina did respect the Islanders wishes, why is Argentina so hell bent of lobbying countries and the UN on removing the human rights of the Islanders and trying to actively destroy our economy?

    Argentina, Britain and the Falklands had agreements on fisheries and oil exploration, Argentina agreed to both and then a few years later tore up the agreements. Now Argentina actively overfishes its waters to try and destroy the South Atlantic's ecosystem to ensure the Falklands fishing industry collapses (which is our biggest industry) in an attempt to force us to negotiate our home. If you don't believe me look on Mercopress and in the Argentina media, the Argentine Government is purposely selling more fishing licences to promote overfishing. Argentina also were to receive a share of the oil revenues from the Falklands, but they pulled out of the agreement and now are up in arms that the Falklands has decided to go ahead anyway!

    And finally...why should the Islanders compromise on their full human rights and give rights to Argentina, a country that has only caused us problems and tried to destroy our livelihoods and homes and to a country that has never actually had control of the islands in the first place? Why should we? Is it just because Argentina raises the issue constantly? Is it because Argentina persists with the issue? Give me a reason why I should compromise my human rights to Argentina. Why should we give in to an aggressive neighbour? Why? Tell me. There are no reasons other than rolling over to a bully and letting him get his way because he persists on the issue.

  8. John, you really don't get it. You are trivialising the Falkland Islander's lives. You are placing a cost on the democratic wishes of fellow British citizens. A cost we have not asked for, but a cost we need because of an aggressive neighbour. If you were an Islander, would you be happy to negotiate your home, your human rights and your future to a country that has only caused serious problems? A country that has invaded you. A country that tries to destroy your economy. A country that is determined to eradicate your human rights. You think we should accept to live under a government we don't want, to save £60m a year? £60m which constitutes 0.1% of the entire UK military budget? If you don't think its worth to spend 0.1% of UK's military budget to protect British people from a very real threat, then you are short-sighted and I have no time for you. This is my last post. Ignorance is bliss John.

    P.S. The Falklands have pledged to cover the cost of our defence once our hydrocarbons industry takes off. But seeing as your don't know much about the Falklands subject, I guess you didn't know that. If you did, you would have mentioned it in your articles.

  9. Unfortunately, Falkland islander, Like Rufus you do not say what your personal interest is. I do not live on the Falkland Islands. I do not know the ins and outs of your economy, nor whether you are the best person to enlighten me. For all I know you might have a personal interest in the oilfields. As to any pledge about hydrocarbons investments ever reaching fruition it is an easy pledge to make, but it should be being made to the penguins and fish to guarantee that they will not perish in the oil-spillages.

    I used data provided by the Guardian for whether the majority of the population considered itself to be British, and included a footnote. The answer to the question was no. Now you are telling me something different.

    The solution, as I see it, though this is going to sound flippant, is to give every family on the Falklands £1 million on condition that they emigrate to the UK, and leave the islands to the wildlife and those who do not consider themselves to be British. When I think of the wasted lives and wasted money spent in trying to retain far-flung outreaches of the British Empire it teaches me what a terrible thing imperialism is. I am not a flag-waver for empires.

  10. I was born in Stanley in the 1980s and currently live and work in the Falkland Islands. My personal interest to your article is the fact you are misinforming people on a subject that is very personal to me... my home and my human rights.

    The pledge to cover the costs of the Falklands military defence was made by the Falkland Islands Government and it has been made publically on numerous occasions. And every effort is being made to ensure there aren't any oil spills, please consult the Mineral Resources Department in the Falklands for more information.

    The Guardian data was taken from the results of the most recent Falklands' Census, one that I took part in answering. The actual question in the census was along the lines of "what do you consider your national identity to be?" and not "do you consider yourself British?" as you mistakenly believe. You would have discovered this if you researched a little more.

    We are Falkland Islanders, but that also makes us British, they are the same. It is the same as someone claims to be English, they are still British. You are splitting hairs to justify your misinformed claims.

    I would turn down the £1m if I was offered it. This is my home. The British Empire is over. We are part of Britain by choice. If you dislike British Overseas Territories so much, I hope you write articles about the other 13 and how they are a waste of the British taxpayers’ money.

    Next time when you make such “flippant” observations regarding people’s lives and human rights, I hope you carry out a bit more research.

    Bye John.

  11. Oil prospectors, drillers and investors always claim to have done everything possible to prevent offshore spillage, even after it happens. If you really cared about the Falkland Islands' ecosystem, the fish and the penguins, you would have opposed any offshore or inland drilling. We already have too few resources to leave for future generations and I would have thought wind-power would supply the needs of the populace.

    I've tried to treat you with respect Falkland Islander but you appear want to talk on behalf of all the islanders as though they all share your beliefs and at the same time you cast snide aspersions on my research for the article. Using the results of a survey most journalists will generally accept that a reputable authority has asked the right questions to elicit the answers or otherwise they might as well be doing the research themselves. According to you, and not just in this comment, my research is aimed at misleading, despite my annotating all the facts. You are allowed to disagree. I would defend your right to do so. You can even point me to your sources if you choose. But there is nothing to be gained from deriding a perfectly well-researched article.

    I understand that opinions run high on subjects that are close to our hearts but to be so derogatory to someone who is contributing to the defence of your household to the tune of more than £90,000 per annum ad infinitum might be considered a little ungrateful, don't you think, when there are homeless people here who could be benefiting from that expenditure?

    1. John, between 40-60% of Stanley's energy requirements is supplied by wind power and 100% of rural energy is supplied by wind power.

      John, I have disagree that you have treated me with respect. I have only treated you as you treated me, with deep scepticism. You have made many comments with regards to the Falklands, which have turned out to be incorrect (see above regarding wind power). You could have prevented making the incorrect comments by carrying out more in depth research about the Falkland Islands themselves. There are many websites you can easily visit, such as the official government website, the tourism website, and the development corporation's website.

      I don't intend to come across as mean, but this subject is exceptionally close to my heart and it hurts me to see individuals like yourself (incorrectly) portray the Falklands as undeserved British taxpayer leaches who don't consider themselves British. I also dislike the "flippant" attitude of solving the (so-called) Falkland issue by expecting the Islanders to compromise on their human rights, when I doubt you would be keen to do the same yourself. I think you should use empathy than figures.

      You are in a unique position of informing individuals and I just want to ensure you are using all the facts. And seeing as you are a published journalist, surely you want to hear all sides of the argument and not just a fiscal one.

  12. "The latest Falkland Islands Government census in 2012 indicates a resident population of 2,841 of whom 59% consider themselves to be ‘Falkland Islander’, 29% British, 9.8% St Helenian and 5.4% Chilean."

    That is from the British FCO website

    I have considerable sympathy with the Falkland Islanders but frankly they need to understand the Machiavellian ways of power, and especially British Establishment power, if they are to maintain what is euphemistically dubbed their "Way of Life", whatever that may be. My post above is an accurate summary of what really drives policy and unless the Falklands population recognise its implications, they may find themselves in a deepening mess that is unlikely to end well for them. Bad-mouthing Argentina is definately NOT a good idea.

    Firstly, the British diaspora currently resident in Argentina far outnumber the Islanders themselves. IOW Argentinian participation in the Islands sovereignty is not the horrific bogeyman depicted above. As additional evidence for that, the only Falklands civilian casualties of the 1982 conflict were in fact 3 women killed by BRITISH forces shelling. NONE were harmed by the Argentines themselves.

    Secondly, trying to outdo Britain in the 'Britishness stakes' with the sort of flag-waving referred to above will not win many friends in the UK, strange as that may seem. It is analogous to similar flag waving by that strange minority calling itself 'Loyalist' in Northern Ireland. They too demand that British power guarantee their cultural supremacy whilst granting them self-goverment and protection from their wicked neighbour to the South - they have become almost universally despised by the British public at large for their behaviour.

    A canny Island leadership would insist on engaging the Argentines and making sure that the connections thus established could be used as effective bargaining chips, as and when British policy for the Islands itself may become inimical to the Islanders' 'way of life'. The problem of course is that, as a 'British Overseas Territory', foreign affairs negotiation and decision making is reserved to London, and London simply would not allow ANY such bi-lateral contact outside of its supervision. It would be considered 'dis-loyal'. That should tell you something.

    One thing is for sure, any oil and gas finds will never be controlled by the Islanders themselves; so hoping for an oil bonanza is likely to prove a seriously bad determinant of policy too.

    1. In response to the flag waving comment, I used this to provide evidence that the Falkland Islanders consider themselves British and hugely patriotic and not for any other reason.

      Any hydrocarbons discovered in the Falklands will be 100% controlled by the Falkland Islands. All hydrocarbons companies seeking licences to explore or extract hydrocarbons have to seek licences from the Falkland Islands Government. All licence fees and royalties will be paid to the Falkland Islands Government. All hydrocarbon regulations will be imposed and regulated by the Falkland Islands Government. And all companies taking part in the Oil and Gas industry in the Falklands have to be registered in the Falklands for tax purposes. This is how a modern British Overseas Territory is managed. It is to ensure that overseas territories are self-governing and self-sufficient. It is the same for all British Overseas Territories. The only difference with the Falklands is that we have the misfortune of having a historically and current aggressive neighbour and we require a military defence. A military defence that we are eternally grateful for and hopefully will cover the cost of.

  13. My personal interest? I'm a British taxpayer who would far rather see my tax money used to protect British people, whether they're English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, Bermudian, Saint Helenian, Falkland Islander or even immigrant Manx rather than (for instance) used to help pay for World Bank loans to Argentina, that don't look terribly likely to ever be paid back.

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  15. Sabretache, I'm sorry I missed your linked article. You should have made the link bigger. It is a well-reasoned consideration of the duplicity of imperialists, kicking the islanders off the Chagos Islands, killing all the island dogs, and maltreating the people they drove off in order to establish a military base, while on the other side of the world using the Falkland Islanders as pawns to have military control in the South Atlantic. A very worthy article. Thanks.

    I suspect you would love 18th century Derbyshire and Staffordshire novelist Robert Bage. Of course things were different when he was writing. England was taxing North America at no advantage to the natives or settlers until the North Americans decided enough was enough and went to war for their independence. He parodied this evolving piece of history with a tale about Carthage and the Hesperides. The Hesperides in this tale were islands taxed by Carthage.

    By the way how do you put hyperlinks into comments?

  16. Jon

    In the following, replace the brackets with chevrons - ie () with <>

    Embedded links require a minimal amount of html code and most comment systems do allow link code. Assuming you want the word 'Here' to contain the link, the code is as follows:

    (a href="link address")Here(/a)

    Thus the link to that Falklands article becomes:

    (a href="")Here(/a)

    Hadn't come across Robert Bage. I'll look him up. Thanks.

    BTW, with various Craig Murray threads in mind too, it's a pleasure to encounter someone who maintains a studious civility in the face of abuse.

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  19. Sabretache, thanks very much. I'm going to try it out with a link to Robert Bage's tale within a tale of Carthage and the Hesperides(a href="")Carthage and the Hesperides(/a). Previous misspelling of Carthage so very last try.

  20. Jon

    You need to replace the brackets with chevrons

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  22. Sabretache, thanks very much. I'm going to try it out with a link to Robert Bage's tale within a tale of Carthage and the Hesperides.
    It works.

  23. I do not speak to the Falkland Islanders but I can ensure you that the vast majority share my feelings. Evidence to of this can be found in letters written and published in our newspaper, comments I have seen on social media, discussions I have had with many Islanders, the rally held in Stanley to show support of our continued determination to remain British, the consistently high attendance at the War Memorial on Liberation Day, etc, etc. And the results of the referendum will also prove that my views are not uncommon. We are British and are determined to remain British in spite of the tactics employed to force us to change our mind.

  24. Please read the following link.

    (a href="")

  25. Falkland Islander, I had difficulty with getting the link to work. You need to use chevrons <> instead of brackets () and you then need to follow it with the text you want highlighted and a (/a)again replacing the brackets with chevrons. Here I've done it for you. Only the Islanders can decide

  26. Thanks for the help with the link John. It is an interesting article written by a visitor to the Islands.

  27. You're welcome Falkland Islander. I would not have known how to do it myself without Sabretache's help.

    Yes, I read the Yorkshire Post article about 'Only the Falkland Islanders can decide now' and left a comment. For me the article was based too heavily in military achievements and lacked any real debate but whoever wrote it is entitled to hold that opinion.

    Sabretache's article A Tale of Two Islands was much more balanced. It demonstrates how British imperialists support one set of islanders, when it suits their purpose and oppose another set of islanders when it does not. What is disturbing is the length our military went to in killing the Chagos islander's pets, mistreating the natives and kicking them off the island they once called home. These are the British of which you think we should be proud? This is just one reason why it would be in the Falkland Islanders best interests to have a negotiated settlement with independent observers sealed in international law. It would also release British taxpayers from the unnecessary burden Mrs Thatcher's war imposed on us. Did you read that article by the way?