Tonight with Andrew Marr 6pm - 7pm
Falklanders vow to remain British despite new Argentina president claiming sovereignty over islands
23 November 2023, 18:41 | Updated: 23 November 2023, 18:43
The Falkland Islands have vowed to remain British despite the new Argentina president claiming sovereignty over the territory.
Listen to this article
Javier Milei, a right-wing libertarian economist, who was elected as president of Argentina on Sunday night, said in a debate that Argentina should have control of the islands.
Argentina invaded the Falklands, a British Overseas Territory, in 1982. That sparked a military response from the UK, with over 900 people dying in the war that followed. The Falklands remained British.
The population of the Falklands, which are 300 miles off the coast of Argentina in the south Atlantic, voted overwhelmingly to remain British in a 2013 referendum.
Mark Pollard, of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly, said that the islands' were British - and this is non-negotiable.
"We, the democratically elected members are very clear that discussions on our sovereignty are non-negotiable.
"Falkland Islanders are clear in their desire to remain as a British Overseas Territory and our commitment to being part of the UK family, living in freedom under the government of our choice."
He told MailOnline: "We exercised our right to self-determination ten years ago where 99.8 per cent of people voted to retain our status as a United Kingdom Overseas Territory in which there was a 92 per cent turnout.
"We urge the Government of Argentina and others to respect our wishes and our right to self-determination.
"The United Kingdom continues to support and protect our people’s inalienable right, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter."
The British government has also hit back at Mr Milei's comments on the Falklands after his election, with Rishi Sunak saying that the islands' sovereignty was "settled" a long time ago.
Argentina's foreign ministry then said that the country has a "permanent and unwavering objective" to take back the Falklands, and that the government "rejects" Mr Sunak's remark.
Mr Milei, 53, said in the debate: "What do I propose? Argentina's sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands is non-negotiable. The Malvinas are Argentine.
"Now we have to see how we are going to get them back. It is clear that the war option is not a solution.
"We had a war - that we lost - and now we have to make every effort to recover the islands through diplomatic channels."
Mr Sunak's official spokesman said: “This is a long-settled issue and there are no plans to revisit it. The position of the Falkland Islands was settled some time ago, and will not be changed.”
Previous president Alberto Fernandez called Britain's control over the islands an "anachronistic colonial situation".
In that context Mr Milei's position could be seen as relatively conciliatory. He even praised Margaret Thatcher, Britain's Conservative prime minister who launched the UK military response to Argentina's invasion.
Mrs Thatcher, still hated by many for ordering the navy to fire on the Belgrano warship, was described by Mr Milei as "one the great leaders in the history of humanity” during his campaign.
An advisor to Mr Milei has said that the Falklands could be gradually transferred to Argentina in a similar process to Hong Kong coming under Chinese rule.
But Diana Mondino also said that the will of the Falklanders themselves must be respected.
"In such a process we can’t leave out those people who live in the Islands, we must include the interests of people living in the Island," she said.
A statement on the Argentine government’s website says: "The recovery of these territories and the full exercise of its sovereignty, respecting the way of life of its inhabitants and following the principles of International Law, constitutes a permanent and irrevocable objective of the Argentine people."
Falklands veteran remembers conflict
Mr Milei gained 56 per cent of the vote, compared to Mr Massa’s 46 per cent - the widest victory margin in the country since it returned to democracy in 1983.
The newly elected president told his supporters on Sunday evening: "Today the reconstruction of Argentina begins. Today is a historic night for Argentina,”
Mr Milei pledged to make “drastic changes” to the country and promised to deal with rising inflation and poverty.
The country is currently experiencing extreme poverty alongside 143 per cent inflation.
Dismantling the Central Bank, halving the number of government ministries and pushing the dollarisation of the economy are among some of his pledges.
“We have monumental problems ahead: inflation, lack of work, and poverty,” he told his voters.
“The situation is critical and there is no place for tepid half-measures."