2013 will be remembered as a momentous year in the history of the Falkland Islands.
The referendum in March offered a clear choice: whether or not to remain a British Overseas Territory. It was not a decision for me. It was not a decision for Argentina. It was a decision for you, the people of the Falkland Islands. This was a question of self-determination – and you could not have sent a clearer message: the Falkland Islands are British through and through. And that is how you want them to stay.
The rest of the world has a fundamental duty to respect and honour what you have said so clearly.
So as we look to 2014, you can count on the British government’s continued support in countering the Argentine government’s campaign to claim the Islands’ resources and to inflict damage on your economy. Most recently, this has involved shameful attempts to discourage hydrocarbons exploration in your waters. My message on this is clear: you have every right to explore your natural resources. The Argentine government’s attempts to deter you from doing so will not succeed.
The British government will continue to support economic development in the Falkland Islands. I was pleased, in particular, that 2 Members of your Legislative Assembly were able to attend this year’s Joint Ministerial Conference, to work in partnership with other UK Overseas Territories in promoting economic diversification, and creating the jobs and growth so vital to our future prosperity.
The British government will remain steadfast in its commitment to your sovereignty and security. The Argentine government will never succeed in any attempt to misrepresent the history of your Islands or question your right to self-determination. Britain will always be ready to defend the Falkland Islands.
Alongside the referendum, 2013 will also be remembered as the year in which we lost Baroness Thatcher. I know she will hold a special place in many of your hearts. I believe it was fitting that her resolute leadership in defending the Falkland Islands was honoured at her funeral service. I know that you are planning your own memorial to her with a statue in Stanley. Her contribution to the security and future of these islands will never be forgotten.
More than 30 years on, my message to you this Christmas is simple: the Falkland Islands is one of Britain’s most important overseas communities. And our commitment to your prosperity, security and sovereignty remains as strong as ever.
Samantha and I wish you all a great Christmas and a happy and successful 2014.