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Defence Cuts - the Falklands - 28 June 2011

Published: 27 Jun 2011

From The Economist. Monday, 27 June 2011 by By Ian Dunt.

Britain is willing to use force to defend its right to the Falkland Islands no matter how robust the rhetoric from Buenos Aires, Liam Fox said today.

The British defence secretary was asked to comment on quotes from Argentine president Cristina Fernandez Kerchner, in which she branded Britain "a crass colonial power in decline".

Taking questions after his speech to the Reform thinktank, Mr Fox said: "Those in politics on the other side of the world can huff and puff but it will not change our resolve politically to retain the independence and the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands nor to come to their defence and to maintain deterrence as best we can.

"We have Typhoons already stationed there. We have a very clear message that we have both the naval power if necessary, and certainly an intent to ensure that the Falkland Islands are kept free and their people enjoy the liberation we fought so hard for 30 years ago."

The comments come as the issue of the Falklands, known as the Malvinas in Argentina, continues to boil away on the international stage.

Buenos Aires was boosted by the news that the United States had joined with the Organisation of American States (OAS) to request Britain negotiate over the islands. Importantly, the resolution referred to the Malvinas rather than the Falklands.

Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell sought prime minister David Cameron's assurance that "negotiations over the Falkland Islands with Argentina will never be acceptable to Her Majesty's government".

Mr Cameron replied: "As long as the Falkland Islands want to be sovereign British territory, they should remain sovereign British territory—full stop, end of story."

That comment, given in the middle of a stormy PMQs session, earned a stern rebuke from the Argentine leader, who accused Mr Cameron of "mediocrity bordering on stupidity".

She added: "In the 21st century, Britain continues to be a crass colonial power in decline because colonialism is outdated and unjust.

"It's ridiculous to hold sovereignty of something that's 14,000 kilometres away."

Former PM Margaret Thatcher won huge political support after she committed Britain to retake the Falkland Islands in 1982.

Defence cuts nearly three decades later have led to concerns that Mr Cameron may not have the option to repeat the defence now.


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