Camilla Swift

Cameron’s fight over the Falklands

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Thirty years on from the Falklands War, and the hostility between Britain and Argentina persists. And it was that hostility that delivered the most striking moment of PMQs earlier. Not only did David Cameron, at the insistence of Andrew Rosindell, describe the Argentinian attitude towards the Islands as ‘far more like colonialism’ than that of the British, but he also confirmed that the National Security Council yesterday discussed the simmering situation in the south Atlantic. As he put it himself, he wants to send out a ‘strong message’ to Argentina, after the recent sabre-rattling actions of their President, Cristina Kirchner — which Daniel has blogged about here.

The question that's buzzing around now is how far that ‘strong message’ will extend. So it's worth noting that, post-PMQs, Cameron is emphasising that other matters were discussed at that National Security Council meeting, beyond the Falkland islanders' ‘right of self-determination’. It's likely that the PM is wary of upping his rhetoric too far, too quickly. After all, with the defence cuts trimming our forces day by day, it's not entirely certain whether, if push came to shove, Britain could defend the sovereignty of the islands.


What's worth keeping an eye on is whether this war of words makes a difference to the race for oil going on in the background. The current row over the Falklands was ignited in January last year, when the British energy company Rockhopper Exploration began testing for oil, and then announced its discovery, in the North Falklands Basin area, in May. Now Rockhopper needs investment from other companies to secure that oil — but as the Sunday Times observed, ‘The list of bidders [has been] limited by the potential political fallout.’

It sounds as though Rockhopper and their potential suitors have made progress in recent days. But will those suitors be reassured by Cameron's defence of British interests in the region today? Or will they worry that it only aggravates the situation? After today, the fog around the Falklands has thickened somewhat.