Is the Falklands more British than the UK?

This week’s overwhelming vote by residents of the Falkland Islands to remain subjects of the British Crown – with only 3 votes against and 1,513 in favour – has led some observers (including the BBC) to ask the dangerous question: is the Falklands now more British than the mainland “mother country”.

Falklanders celebrating in Port Stanley after the emphatic pro-British vote

Its population certainly more closely resembles Britain as it used to be: i.e. White.

The same is mostly true of British expatriates around the world: more than 200,000 in South Africa and New Zealand; more than 600,000 in the USA and Canada; 1.3 million in Australia; and more than 750,000 in Spain.

In the case of many expatriates the changing nature of their native country was a major reason for choosing to leave it, and their identity is not with today’s Britain, but with the once and (we hope) future Britain.

Meanwhile the Falklanders (and the inhabitants of other sometimes embattled remnants of empire such as St Helena and Gibraltar) hold fast to a strongly British identity as a symbol of defiance against those who would sell them out – in the case of the Falklands, to their intermittently aggressive neighbour Argentina.

Anti-British protestors in the Argentine capital burn an effigy of Prince William outside the British Embassy.

London’s dispute with Argentina, which led to a brief military conflict in 1982, has flared up again during the last year, and might take another turn with the election of an Argentine Pope – the former Archibishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, who has become Pope Francis I.

Last year he told a congregation in the Argentine capital at a memorial service for the 1982 war:
“We come to pray for those who have fallen, sons of the homeland who set out to defend his mother, the homeland, to claim the country that is theirs and they were usurped.”

The new Pope Francis I – then Cardinal Bergoglio of Buenos Aires – seen last year with Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner, who has reignited the Falklands controversy and now suggests the Pope might mediate with London.

One might expect him to take a more diplomatic line now that he has become Pope. Some commentators have suggested that the Falklands controversy might delay a papal visit to the UK, but even in the immediate aftermath of the 1982 war memories were short. Argentina and Tottenham Hotspur football star Osvaldo Ardiles was sent on a diplomatic season’s loan to Paris St Germain in 1982-3, but soon returned to the London club for the 1983-4 season and remained for five years, even coming back as manager in 1993.  Ardiles and his fellow Argentine Spurs star Ricky Villa were inducted into the Tottenham Hotspur Hall of Fame in 2008.

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