After stating the obvious at PMQs this week — that the Falklands would remain
sovereign British territory as long as they want to be — David Cameron has come under heavy fire from the Argentine President, Cristina Kirchner. As today’s papers report, she yesterday described our PM as "arrogant," and said his comments were an
"expression of mediocrity and almost of stupidity". But there is nothing new in the British position, which has always been that there can be no negotiations over sovereignty unless and
until such a time as the Falkland Islanders so wish.
The issue has recently heated up after the United States sided with Argentina in demanding that Britain open negotiations over the status of the Falkland Islands, joining such stalwart allies as
Nicaragua and Venezuela. The OAS declaration uses the Argentinean name for the Falklands, the Malvinas Islands, and calls for exploring "all possible avenues towards a peaceful settlement of
the dispute," and resuming sovereignty negotiations "as soon as possible." The introduction of the resolution was in turn triggered by the arrival of a British oil rig, the Ocean
Guardian, in the waters to the north of the Falklands.
That, of course, will not happen and the dispute will die down. By the latest figures, exports
from Britain to Argentina stand at around £295 million, while imports are at £532 million. Britain is Argentina’s 14th largest supplier of goods and their sixth largest investor. This
represents a lot more actual income for both Britain and Argentina than the potential income from oil exploration around the Falklands, the supposed cause of the recent dispute. Given this, there
is little risk of a real rift, nor a military invasion by Argentina. But the dispute will not die down before President Kirchner is milking it for all its worth. And that says all you need to know
about contemporary Argentine politics — focused on gestures and dreams of future riches, rather than pragmatism and actual income.