Falkland Islands Referendum


On 10-11th March 2013 a referendum on whether the Falkland Islands should remain as an Overseas Territory of the UK, or not, will be held.

Falkland Flag

The history of the Falkland Islands between the UK and Argentina has long been complicated. A long-standing disagreement over the political status of the Falkland Islands culminated in the Falklands War in 1982, which lasted for 74 days. The war ended on 14th June 1982, with the Argentine surrender, resulting in the islands being returned to British control. However, Argentina has never relinquished their claim that the Falkland Islands are Argentinian territory and, in 1994, the claim was added to the Argentine constitution. This meant that Argentina viewed the Falklands War as re-occupation of their own territory, whereas the British government viewed this as an invasion. With the dispute still in full-force 31 years after the Falklands War, it has now been decided that the islanders themselves should decide whether they wish to remain a British territory or not.

On 12th June 2012, the decision of the Falkland Islands Government to hold a referendum over their political status, was announced by Gavin Short, a Member of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly. He said that the Islanders wished to hold the referendum “to eliminate any possible doubt about our wishes”. The referendum has received full support from the British government and the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has said his Government would “respect and defend” the outcome of the referendum.

“We have to respect the interests of the people living in the area but not the wishes.”

Mr Timerman
Argentine Foreign Minister

However, the Argentine government has issued a rather more negative response. Daniel Filmus, chairman of the Argentine Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, claims the referendum will “not change at all the Argentine position”. This implies the Argentine government are willing to disregard the wishes of the Falkland people themselves, as they  do not believe they have a right to self-determination.

Further to this, Argentina apparently launched a campaign to “undermine the legitimacy” of the referendum. For example, the Falkland Islands Government will be inviting observers to independently and fairly verify the result of the referendum: however, the Argentine government has apparently sent diplomats to the Caribbean and Africa to persuade governments against sending observers, stressing the “inconvenience” of the trip. Argentina’s reaction to the referendum has led William Hague, British Foreign Secretary, to accuse Argentina of “bullying and intimidatory behaviour” towards the Islands.

Despite Argentina’s aversion to the referendum as a solution to the long-standing issue of the island’s political status, the referendum is still planned to go ahead. The question which will be posed to the islanders is this:

“Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom? YES or NO”

The predictions for the outcome of the referendum are currently for a tremendous “yes”, in favour of remaining an overseas territory of the UK. Should the outcome of the referendum be “no”, a second referendum on potential alternatives will be held.

As William Hague said, “It is, and must always be, for them to decide their own future.”


Discussion5 Comments

  1. avatar

    “What the British Claim Rests On” (copied-and-pasted from the Facebook page Keep the Falklands British (http://www.facebook.com/#!/notes/keep-the-falklands-british/british-claim/407650689319019))

    That the British were the first to claim the islands in 1690 and have never renounced that claim.

    That the islands have been continuously and peacefully occupied by the UK since 1833, with the exception of “2 months of illegal occupation” by Argentina.

    That Argentina’s attempts to colonise the islands in 1820–33 were “sporadic and ineffectual”.

    That the islands had no indigenous or settled population before British settlement.That in an Argentine-inspired poll in 1994, 87% of the island’s population rejected any form of discussion of sovereignty under any circumstances.

    That the principle of uti possedetis “is not accepted as a general principle of international law”.

    That UN General Assembly resolutions calling for negotiations “are flawed because they make no reference to the Islanders’ right to choose their own future.”

    The European Union Treaty of Lisbon ratifies that the Falkland Islands belong to Britain.

    ==Does the fact Spain once controlled the islands help the Argentine claim?==
    In March 1848, the delegates at the Lima Congress in Peru signed a number of agreements.

    Article 7 stated – ” The confederated Republics declare that they have a perfect right to the conservation of their territories as they existed at the time of independence from Spain, those of the respective Viceroyalties, captaincies-general or presidencies into which Spanish America was divided.”

    This is known as the Uti Possidetis Juris principle and Article 7 was signed by Ministers from Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. The doctrine of Uti Possidetis Juris is therefore a useful tool to resolve sovereignty/border issues between the signatories.

    Argentina did not sign. Britain did not sign. Uti Possidetis Juris does therefore not apply to the Falkland Islands.

    ==Do Papal Bulls help the Argentine claim?==
    No, they don’t. I refer to the papal bull of 1493 and the subsequent Treaty of Tordesillas. Regrettably, it wasn’t recognised by most of the world then and by none now. Even the Papacy says it was wrong then and of no account now. By the way “self-determination” means that the people there decide.

    The treaty only affects Spain and Portugal, so it isn’t relevant to the Falklands dispute as the UK isn’t a signatory of the treaty. If the UK was a signatory then it would effect the sovereignty of all former British colonies in the Americas, including countries like Canada.

    The islanders have the right to determine the sovereignty of their birthplace. In which case, the islanders should not lose their rights as a result of things that happened before they were born – such as Spain and Portugal signing a treaty in the 15th century.

    ==Does the Nootka Sound Convention help the Argentine claim?==
    Some points about the Nootka Sound Convention.

    Article VI “It is further agreed with respect to the eastern and western coasts of South America and the islands adjacent, that the respective subjects shall not form in the future any establishment on the parts of the coast situated to the south of the parts of the same coast and of the islands adjacent already occupied by Spain; it being understood that the said respective subjects shall retain the liberty of landing on the coasts and islands so situated for objects connected with their fishery and of erecting thereon huts and other temporary structures serving only those objects.”

    1) It is debatable that it applies to the Falklands. It refers to adjacent islands. The Falklands at 300 nautical miles from Argentina are not adjacent to Argentina.

    2) It was suspended in 1795 due to war between the two countries. It may or may not have been renewed in 1814 after the war.

    3) It’s a reciprocal treaty. Both countries, Spain as well as Great Britain (the respective subjects), were forbidden to form establishments on the coasts mentioned. Spain, by forming settlements late 18th -early 19th century in what is now San Clemente del Tuyú (directly south of the Banda Oriental -now Uruguay), was in breach of the Convention.

    4) If it does apply to the Falklands, Argentina, by establishing a settlement on the Falklands in 1826 (subjects of any other power), rendered article 6 null and void as per the secret article:

    Since by article 6 of the present convention it has been stipulated, respecting the eastern and western coasts of South America, that the respective subjects shall not in the future form any establishment on the parts of these coasts situated to the south of the parts of the said coasts actually occupied by Spain, it is agreed and declared by the present article that this stipulation shall remain in force only so long as no establishment shall have been formed by the subjects of any other power on the coasts in question. This secret article shall have the same force as if it were inserted in the convention.

    (Argentine web pages on Nootka and the Falklands never mention the secret article)

    5) New states do not inherit treaties without the consent of other signatories to those treaties.

    6) Argentina did not inherit the Falklands so neither did she inherit any treaty Spain may have signed with any country regarding the Falklands.

    ==Do the Falklands belong to Argentina on the basis of geography?==
    No, there are plenty of overseas territories from several different nations all over the world that are not disputed by the other closest nations. The islands are also 0 miles from the islanders who are self governing.

    At their closest to Argentina, the Falklands are some two hundred and fifty miles from the tip of Tierra del Fuego, and over three hundred and fifty miles from the nearest Patagonian coast, and are not considered to be joined to South America’s continental shelf by many (not all) academics.

    After recognition from Spain, Argentina began the annexation of Patagonia which was left to the native people and involved genocide. They are in no position to lecture the British on imperialism. Even though Argentina is still considerably closer to the Islands the UK, this annexation process inevitably brought the islands closer to Buenos Aires control.

    It is irrelevant whether the islands are on the Argentine continental shelf anyway as international law regards various offshore distances as being of significance to territorial disputes: three miles, seven miles and twenty-one miles, with two hundred miles as an absolute limit. Territorial contiguity (via an undersea continental shelf) does not seem to have much force in international law; otherwise presumably the Canaries would belong to Morocco or the Faroe Islands to Britain.

    ==What about 1833?==
    1833 was the Re-establishment of British rule on the Falkland Islands.

    In 1765, Captain John Byron landed on Saunders Island. He then explored other islands’ coasts and claimed the group for Britain. The following year, Captain John McBride returned to Port Egmont, on Saunders, to construct a fort. The British later discovered the French colony at Port Saint Louis, and the first sovereignty dispute began.

    The Spanish expelled the British colony in 1770, but it was restored in 1771 following British threats of war over the islands. However, in 1774, economic pressures leading up to the American Revolutionary War forced Great Britain to withdraw from many overseas settlements. By 1776, the British had left their settlement, leaving behind a plaque asserting British sovereignty over the islands. Although there was no British administration in the islands, British and American sealers routinely used them to hunt for seals, also taking on fresh water as well as feral cattle, pigs and even penguins for provisions. Whalers also used the islands to shelter from the South Atlantic weather and to take on fresh provisions.

    Luis Vernet approached the BRITISH for permission to build a settlement at the former Spanish settlement of Puerto Soledad, initially in 1826 and again in 1828 following the failure of the earlier expedition.

    In addition, Vernet requested British protection for his settlement should the British choose to form a permanent presence on the islands. After receiving assurances from the British minister chargé d’affaires, Sir Woodbine Parish, Vernet provided regular reports to the British on the progress of his enterprise.

    Vernet’s appointment as Governor in 1829 was protested against by the British Consul Parish, in return the Government of the United Provinces of the River Plate merely acknowledged the protest. Britain protested again when Vernet announced his intentions to exercise exclusive rights over fishing and sealing in the islands. (Similar protests were received from the American representative, who protested at the curtailment of established rights and that the United States did not recognise the jurisdiction of the United Provinces over the islands.)

    Vernet continued to provide regular reports to Parish throughout this period.

    The raid of the USS Lexington in December 1831 combined with the United Provinces assertions of sovereignty were the spur for the British to establish a military presence on the islands.

    On 2 January 1833, Captain James Onslow, of the warship HMS Clio, arrived at the Spanish settlement at Port Louis to request that the Argentine flag be replaced with the British one, and for the Argentine administration to leave the islands.

    While Argentine Lt. Col. José María Pinedo, commander of the Argentine schooner Sarandí, wanted to resist, his numerical disadvantage was obvious, particularly as a large number of his crew were British mercenaries who were unwilling to fight their own countrymen. Such a situation was not unusual in the newly independent states in Latin America, where land forces were strong, but navies were frequently quite undermanned. As such he protested verbally, but departed without a fight on 5 January. The colony was set up and the islands continued under a British presence until the Falklands War.

    After their return in 1833, the British began moves to begin a fully-fledged colony on the islands, initially based upon the settlers remaining in Port Louis (Argentine often claim these settlers were removed yet there is zero evidence for this). Vernet’s deputy, Matthew Brisbane, returned later that year to take charge of the settlement and was encouraged to further Vernet’s business interests provided he did not seek to assert Argentine Government authority.

    In 1841, General Rosas offered to relinquish any Argentine territorial claims in return for relief of debts owed to interests in the City of London. The British Government chose to ignore the offer. Silly us eh?

    ==What has the UN said?==
    In 1946 the UK included the Falkland Islands on the UN list of non-self-governing territories under Chapter XI of the UN charter. However, the General Assembly of the United Nations did not explicitly address the issue of the Falkland Islands until 1965, which Resolution 2065 noted: “the existence of a dispute between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over [said] Islands”, and invited those governments “to proceed without delay with the negotiations… with a view to finding a peaceful solution to the problem, bearing in mind the provisions and objectives of the Charter of the United Nations and of General Assembly UN Resolution 1514 (XV) and the interests of the population of the Falkland Islands

    On the 12th of November [Ki-Moon Ban, the UN’s secretary-general] said the UK is not violating relevant UN resolutions referred to the Falklands’ and more specifically on colonialism, he argued that a prevailing impression is that “people living under certain conditions should have a certain level of capacities so that they can decide their own future”, be it independence or some kind of government in their territories.

    Britain has a legally sound claim the Falkland Islands.

    Ellie Sellwood

    You could have written another article with all of that 🙂 Thanks for the comment x

    Chris Baker

    Bit long, but sounds about right!


    Chris baker I got another on even longer, with many articles that you do not mentioned and I will show you later, but just one little thing that naturally is adjacent cause Spain inheritance, got the same climate and the economic system is similarto the one on south territory, (us), they are into the continental platform(search that), and by the international law after the convention of Geneva of 1958 belong to the coaster state with full right , discovering nd occupation of the island. Also dates where Great Britain acknowledged the rights over the island to Argentina 1713, ultecht treaty, bet Spain, Britain, and French that confirm the sovereignty of Spain over its traditional territories in the america that included Malvinas , 1790, Spain and Great Britain signed the nooka conventionnwhetevgreat Britain formally renounced to any colonial ambition in South America and adjacents islands 1825,great Britain acnowledged the independence of the united province on rio de la plata and didn’t make any objection bout Malvinas , the friendship treaty, navigation and commerce signed by both parties. Last stop with the propaganda of natives genocides and accusations of colonialism from our side, the whole continent suffered the same inhuman threat from white racist and white descendant from ovesea(Europe), we got no right to accuse you of pirate imperialist colonialist, but neither you, cause that same idea of white usurping oversea wchich is stated on book around the world is because you the Europeans .

    Chris Baker

    Hey George. Bit late to the discussion… and your writing isn’t exactly easy to decipher. Also not sure why you’re directing this at me since the original post (the one with sources and research… “search that”) wasn’t written by me.

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