Falklands factor

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THE parallels between 1981 and this year continue to grow: A Royal wedding, urban riots, economy despondency, nationwide strikes, rising fuel costs and a potential threat to the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.

Yet, while there’s nothing to suggest that the latest sabre-rattling in South America will lead to a repeat of the 1982 Argentine invasion that was repelled by a Task Force put together by Margaret Thatcher, this is not a time for complacency.

After all, the Foreign Office’s past ambivalence was one reason why the Argentinian invasion was successful – and there was always the possibility that this Government’s decision to scrap the HMS Ark Royal aircraft carrier prematurely would send out the wrong signal.

That said, the latest diplomatic shenanigans – a fairly regular occurrence in the South Atlantic – are slightly more serious than others as vessels sailing with a Falklands flag are now prevented from docking in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay or Uruguay. And, given that the cargo in question is lucrative minerals, this does have financial repercussions for the Islanders.

Some will, doubtless, contend that the UK has other priorities. But let it be remembered that the Falklands are part of the Commonwealth and their sovereignty is entirely a matter for its people, who have shown no intentions of severing their ties with London.

Others will argue that Britain’s foreign policy has failed to put this country’s interests first. As Roger Spink, the president of the Falklands Chamber of Commerce, said yesterday: “If we were Palestine, the European Union would be up in arms.”

Given this, it is now up to William Hague, the Foreign Secretary and Richmond MP, to ensure that this dispute is rectified before there is any possibility of history repeating itself again, and unnecessarily so.