These warmongering Brexiteers have no understanding of our relationship with Argentina – and they are putting our economy at risk
At the same time as the ERG feels the need to bring up the thorny issue of the Falklands, the UK is supposed to be trying to forge improved trade links with Argentina as part of its post-Brexit economic strategy
I still remember, as a nine-year-old boy, watching a rebellious pupil at my school clutching a copy of The Sun and talking excitedly about us going to war with the “Argies” to defend the Falklands. Three and a half decades later, I thought we had moved on. Clearly I was wrong.
The news that the European Research Group (ERG) – a gang of researchers chaired by Jacob Rees-Mogg, who work to sell the benefits of a hard Brexit – wants to set aside money for a “rapid reaction force” in case of an attack on the Falklands suggests that some are still stuck in the past when it comes to our relationship with Argentina.
As with Brexit itself, the ERG members have not done their homework. Argentina today is a far cry from the military dictatorship of the 1980s. Brexiteers cannot find a plausible solution to the Irish border conundrum so, instead, and in typical fashion, they are creating a false narrative about a non-existent threat to the Falklands to distract the public. When I lived in Argentina between 2012 and 2013, the previous Argentine government would use the same tactic, whipping up hysteria about the Falklands as a distraction. But even then, they never once threatened to invade.
To even suggest that the country is about to try to take back the Falklands via military means defies all rational logic. Argentina’s economy is in a mess. With spiralling inflation and the peso in free fall, interest rates were raised by the Central Bank to 60 per cent. The government has decided to shut down a number of ministries to save money and is working with the IMF to seek an emergency loan. The country defaulted in 2001 and was frozen out of world capital markets for more than a decade. The Argentine government and its people know that this simply cannot happen again.
The other reason why a Falklands invasion is unimaginable is that Argentina has no military capability, and there is no public appetite for it. The UK defence journal wrote last year that it had “ceased to be a capable military force” due to prolonged cuts. When Obama visited the country in 2016, US jets had to be used to accompany Air Force One as Argentine aircraft were not deemed capable of providing sufficient support. Under Cristina Kirchner, nobody apart from Russia would sell it any weapons.
At the same time as the ERG feels the need to bring up the thorny issue of the Falklands, the UK is supposed to be trying to forge improved trade links with Argentina as part of its post-Brexit economic strategy. Boris Johnson only very recently visited Buenos Aires on a trade mission; he told us that Brexit was an opportunity to renew our friendship. Meanwhile, Transport for London is also bidding to run the metro in Buenos Aires.
All this points to one conclusion: Argentina is and should remain a friend after Brexit. Yet that’s not the position of those who seek to guide us after Brexit. And that’s why the people need another chance to have their say about the kind of country they want to live in after 2019.
The fact that the Brexiteers simply have not done their research about our relationship with Argentina is symptomatic of their failure to understand the realities of post-Brexit Britain overall. From Michael Howard’s warmongering comments linking the Argentinian junta to Spain and Gibraltar last year, to the ERG’s latest nonsense, they resort to bringing up past wars rather than answering the difficult questions about future security cooperation, trade with the EU and post-Brexit immigration policy, that face us right now.
Despite being asked for a proper plan, the Brexiteers cannot come up with one.
What we need now, to save us from this disaster, is a Final Say on the Brexit deal – or no-deal scenario, as looks increasingly likely – which will allow the British people to consider all the options as they stand today. What we do not need is yet more playground rebels banging on about a war that fell silent decades ago.