Policy

Supporting the Falkland Islanders’ right to self-determination

Issue

The people of the Falklands are British and have chosen to be so. They have the right to self-determination as set out in the UN Charter.

In recent years the Argentine government has tried to coerce the Falkland Islanders into becoming part of Argentina. For example the government has attempted to intimidate businesses involved in the hydrocarbons industry, harassed Falklands fishing vessels, threatened to cut the one air link between the Islands and South America, and closed its ports to cruise ships that visit the islands.

The UK government remains committed to promoting the rights of the Falkland Islanders and defending the islands. We work closely in partnership with the Falkland Islands Government in Stanley who are responsible for administering the internal affairs of the islands.

Actions

We continue to make clear to the Argentine government that any attempt to threaten the Falkland Islanders and undermine their economy will not succeed. There will be no negotiations on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands unless and until the islanders decide.

The UK regrets the policy of the current Argentine government and remains keen to work with the Argentine government on areas of mutual interest in the South Atlantic (eg fisheries conservation), and promote better co-operation between Argentina and the Falkland Islands.

On 10-11 March 2013 the Falkland Islands Government held a referendum on whether or not to maintain the Islands’ status as a British Overseas Territory. There were 1513 votes (99.8%) in favour and three against. The turnout was 92% of an electorate of 1653.

As the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary said on 12 March, the Government hopes that Argentina and other countries respect the referendum result and the Islanders’ expressed wishes, which were demonstrated beyond all doubt. The UK will remain committed to the Falkland Islanders and defend their rights to determine how they are governed, which is enshrined in the UN Charter.

Background

The majority of the population of the Falkland Islands are British by birth or descent, with many tracing their ancestry back 9 generations to the early 19th century. Although British sovereignty dates back to the 1760s, the islands have been continuously, peacefully and effectively inhabited and administered by Britain since 1833, except in April to June 1982 when Argentine forces illegally invaded and occupied them until they were expelled by the UK task force.

Since 1982 the Falkland Islands have developed and prospered. Major industries include: fisheries, tourism, agriculture and hydrocarbons exploration currently underway. They are economically self sufficient in all areas except defence, the cost of which amounts to some 0.5 % of the total UK defence budget. The UK has responsibility for the defence and foreign affairs of the islands and with full agreement from the Falkland Islands Government, represents and acts on behalf of them in these areas.

The latest Falkland Islands Government census in 2012 indicates a resident population of 2,841 of whom 59% consider themselves to be ‘Falkland Islander’, 29% British, 9.8% St Helenian and 5.4% Chilean.