Since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party last year, the Falkland Islands and have often found themselves in the news due to the his history of supporting “negotiations” over the sovereignty of the islands. For Corbyn, this opinion is part of a wider group of views on foreign policy which are seen by many as his weakest point and an area which could cause Labour serious problems in retaining the support of some of their traditional voters, let alone winning over Conservatives.
In a recent interview with Andrew Marr, Corbyn called for a “reasonable accommodation” with Argentina over the Falklands but appeared evasive when pushed as to whether the islanders should have a veto over their future. Behind the verbal gymnastics (so much for “straight-talking” politics) the message is pretty clear: Corbyn does not believe the Falkland Islanders have a right to self-determination.
In 2013, over 99% of Falklanders (on a turnout of over 90%) voted to remain a UK overseas territory. The vast majority of Falklanders voted for the status quo and thus any kind of arrangement or negotiation with Argentina (whose claims over the Islands have always been illegitimate) would run counter to the democratic will of the people – only when the Falklanders themselves decide otherwise would negotiations be acceptable.
Although Corbyn has also stated many times that he believes the Falklanders should have a say in their future this simply is not believable. The Falklanders would be forgiven for not trusting a man who has repeatedly called for joint-sovereignty of the islands and who has implied that he thinks the British military response to the invasion in 1982 was merely an election ploy by Margaret Thatcher.
Even in this latest interview with Marr, Corbyn seemed reluctant to endorse the British response in 1982. Given that Argentina the clear aggressor in that conflict – persecuting a peaceful community with a military invasion – it is quite remarkable that the official opposition leader cannot even bring himself to condone an act of self-defence by the country which he aspires to lead.
The huge irony in this situation is that were the Falklands a Venezuelan or Cuban overseas territory in the Gulf of Mexico that found itself constantly harassed by a country like the United States, Mr Corbyn would be the first to speak out against such bullying. He would insist that the people on those islands have a right to self-determination as guaranteed under the UN Charter and that acts of “neo-imperialism” must be resisted. Indeed, Corbyn often makes frequent references to the United Nations in his public comments on foreign policy yet on this issue he seems content to ignore that principle of self-determination, which since its founding has been one of the core values of the UN.
What Jeremy Corbyn does not understand is that we already have a very generous accommodation with Argentina over the Falklands and that accommodation is thus: we have relations with them. We have relations with Argentina despite decades of provocation, sabre-rattling and attempts by the Argentine government to hound the Falklanders into submission. The Falklanders simply want to live in peace and cooperate with their neighbours.
In future, Mr Corbyn would do well to bear this in mind before he insults the Falklanders again with more calls for “negotiations” and “arrangements”. Ultimately, the fate of the Falkland Islands rests in the hands of those who live there and future governments must be prepared to back up their right to self-determination by any means necessary.
Ben is an international relations postgraduate from the University of Kent. Follow him on Twitter: @btharris93
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty