[I]t might be worth raising the question with the Argentinians. We’ve got absolutely no money. I really doubt we have much stomach for another Falklands War, and then another. They are clearly passionately keen to acquire some territory with rich resources, high GDP and as much sentimental value as you can maintain for something 300 miles from your coastline. It might be worth a lot of money in the future, but actually we could quite do with some money now, this second. Perhaps we can suggest to President Kirchner that half a trillion pounds would be quite a reasonable sum for this archipelago of 778 mostly charming islands. They wouldn’t have to pay all at once.
When Aden was abandoned by the British in 1967, Philip Larkin wrote rather an imperial poem saying: "Next year we shall be living in a country/That brought its soldiers home for lack of money". Well, we’ve been living in that country for a long time now – all my life, and probably yours, too. The thing is, we don’t have any money at all any longer. If they really want these remote and intermittently inhabited islands, we might as well abandon any shame we might once have possessed, and sell them to them, priced by the acre.
It’s true, as Hensher says, that selling sovereign land is scarcely unprecedented. Nevertheless, as tends to be the case when folk advocate sweeping solutions to the Falklands issue one poor group of people don’t get a look in: the plucky little islanders themselves. Their views appear to be of little account, as though they have become an embarrassment whose inconvenient presence thwarts any chance of solving the issue in any kind of grown-up fashion.
Well, tough. The islanders have no desire to be Argentine and that’s that. Unless the Argentines relinquish their claim to the islands there is no point in talks since there will be nothing to discuss. Moreover the present Argentine meddling can only be designed to placate President Kirchner’s domestic constituency. That comes at a price, however, and seems likely to reinforce the islanders’ existing loyalties.
The rest of the world may (I think does) view this stramash with some baffled amusement. Nevertheless the islands are British and though far from the UK mainland are hardly in the mouth of the River Plate either. So that’s that.
Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.