Argentina will exploit a no-deal Brexit to 'enhance' its claims to Falklands, says its foreign minister
Argentina will exploit a no-deal Brexit to 'enhance' its claims to Falklands, says its foreign minister Theresa May will meet Argentina's president Mauricio Macri in November would exploit the fallout from a no-deal Brexit to further its efforts to bring the Falklands under its control, the country’s foreign minister has said.
Jorge Faurie told The Telegraph that Argentina would use the situation to “enhance” its own diplomatic push to pull the islands away from the UK and towards Buenos Aires.
Once the UK leaves the European Union, all EU treaties will cease to apply and member states will no longer be obliged to support the UK’s claim over the territory.
“Our planning for Las Malvinas [the Argentine name for the islands] is to have a negotiation that will enablestronger relations between the people on the islands and the people on the continent [mainland]," Mr Faurie said.
“And we hope that the non Brexit [no-deal] solution will enhance the possibility of that dialogue to be truly one with results.”
Mr Faurie suggested Argentina could take advantage of looser diplomatic ties between the UK and EU to intensify pressure for his country to take control of the Falklands.
“If you think member states [of the EU] would not sustain the Malvinas claim in favour of the UK, we are there ... to talk, to negotiate, to see what would be the best solution for the people in the islands to be much more in touch with Argentina," he said.
His remarks came amid growing uncertainty over the legal status of the UK's overseas territories. Under the EU’s 2009 Lisbon Treaty, the Falkland Islands are a British overseas territory to which some EU rules apply.
The EU’s Duty of Sincere Cooperation includes a a mutual legal obligation for the EU and the member states to assist each other in matters including claims over sovereignty.
Mr Faurie, on a visit to the UK, reiterated his position that the Falklands, which Britain went to war over in 1982, should be integrated into mainland Argentina.
Theresa May is due to meet Mauricio Macri, the Argentinian president,at the G20 in Buenos Aires on November 30, in a first visit by a British prime minister to Argentina since Tony Blair in 2001.
Officially, talks are to be focused on post-Brexit trade between the two nations. But both leaders are likely to be under pressure over the territory's future, with the EU set to convene an emergency summit in either November or December to finalise the withdrawal agreement with the UK.
Italy, with its historic migratory ties and friendly relations with Buenos Aires, and Spain, which has long disputed thesovereignty of Gibraltar with the UK, are thought to be sympathetic to Argentina’s counter claims over the Falklands.
Since Mr Macri, Argentina’s centre-Right, pro-business president, came to power in 2015 the South American country has softened its stance over the sovereignty issue surrounding the Falklands.
However, Mr Macris’ previous foreign minister, Susana Malcorra, said last year that Argentina was “following closely” the Brexit process and how it may affect Britain’s claims to sovereignty.
“It is true that the European Union, through the EU agreements, is bonded very firmly and very strongly to the United Kingdom,” she said in Brussels when asked whether Brexit would affect the diplomatic situation regarding the Falklands.
“So when Brexit takes place, the EU could evaluate a decision on how to proceed and how to stand on these issues and there may be a change. But I think it is still very preliminary, Brexit has just started and there are multiple themes. So, we follow closely.”
In May this year, Boris Johnson became the first British foreign secretary to visit Argentina in 25 years when he laid a wreath to commemorate the 649 Argentinian soldiers who died in the Falklands War.
Mrs May’s planned visit in Novembercomes two years after she wrote to Mr Macri calling for restrictions on oil exploration in the Falklands Islands to be lifted and for more flights to the British-run islands.
Crashing out of the EU without a deal not only raises questions about sovereignty for the Falklands. The islands, whose residents were not able to vote in the 2016 EU referendum, rely on tariff-and quota-free access to the European market for their fish and meat, with the exports accounting for some 70 per cent of the islands’ GDP.
The Falkland Islands government says “any material change that results in less beneficial import/export access could be potentially catastrophic for the Falkland Islands economy and people”, according to a report drawn up by the UK Overseas Territories Association.
Trading with the EU on WTO terms, as a result of a no-deal Brexit, would all but decimate the local economy on the 3,400-population archipelago.
In 2013, 99.80 per cent of islanders voted in favour of remaining under British rule.