David Cameron and Javier Milei have "agreed to disagree" on the matter of who owns the strategically positioned Falkland Islands. The Argentinian claims are surprisingly sound but the Brits have control and the adage that "possession is 9/10 of the law" is the rallying cry. There is zero chance Cameron raised this thorny issue, it was a maneuver by Milei to put the Falklands back on the table to gain negotiating leverage. As austerity gets tougher for the Argentine people, look for Milei to rattle sabers on this issue to keep his people behind him.
David Cameron and Javier Milei, Argentina's recently elected president, reached an impasse on the long-standing dispute over the Falkland Islands' sovereignty during their Wednesday meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. While Mr. Milei reiterated his proposal of a Hong Kong-style agreement potentially seeing the UK relinquish control of the islands, the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) maintained its firm stance. The spokesperson said the pair "politely agreed to disagree" on the core issue, though statistics show the stark difference in viewpoints.
“On the Falkland Islands, the foreign secretary and Mr. Milei said they would agree to disagree, and do so politely. The UK position and ongoing support for the Falkland Islanders’ right to self-determination remains unchanged,” a spokesperson said, alluding to a referendum in 2013 in which almost all of the 3,500 residents opted to remain under British rule.
A 2023 poll conducted by the Falkland Islands government revealed that 99.8% of residents favor remaining a British Overseas Territory. It should be noted that the islands only have a population of around 3,500 people. Conversely, according to a 2022 survey by the Argentine polling firm Poliarquía, 74% of the nearly 50 million Argentines believe the islands should belong to Argentina. These figures highlight the deeply entrenched positions on both sides, further emphasizing the complexity of reaching a resolution.
Argentina has long claimed sovereignty over the Falklands, leading to the 1982 war which claimed the lives of 255 British servicemen, three islanders, and 649 Argentine personnel. Downing Street remains adamant that the issue was "settled decisively" after the war, with Defence Secretary Grant Shapps declaring the islands "British" and "non-negotiable."
Argentina argues its ownership of the Falklands, or Islas Malvinas, is woven into its very existence. From inheriting Spain's 18th-century claim to their geographical proximity and UN resolutions supporting dialogue, Argentina feels history, geography, and law all point to sovereignty. While acknowledging the islanders' 2013 vote, they advocate for a broader self-determination process encompassing both Argentina's historical claim and the islanders' future.
Austerity will be tough in the coming months and years for Argentina, the Falkland Islands is a powerful bargaining chip for Milei to use to maintain support by the citizens who feel strongly that the Falklands are theirs. The UK will do all it can to kick the can down the road.
Beyond politics, the Falkland Islands serve as a stepping stone between South America and Antarctica and control grants access to maritime traffic and potentially to Antarctic resources. The waters are packed to the gills with fish, and oil and gas reserves have been discovered. The islands have an airbase which is considered a critical military outpost for refueling and logistics support for operations in the region.