Don't Panic

The Falklands- Time to pour oil on troubled waters?

It's a difficult subject, The Falklands. On the one hand, they are geographically closer to Argentina - a lot closer. The UK is situated 7,800 miles north of them and Argentina is just 500 miles to the west. On the other, the Islanders see themselves as British.

Residents show their allegiance to Britain by driving their vehicles with the British and Falkland Island flag …

So when Sean Penn attacks the UK for the ‘ridiculous demonstrations of colonialism’ over the Falklands he is stumbling into an area many would say a pampered Hollywood actor has little understanding of.

Former serviceman Simon Weston, who suffered 46 per cent burns as a result of an Argentine bomb during the conflict, simply dismissed Penn as an ‘idiot’.

Putting the war aside for one moment, similar overseas territories like Gibraltar, Bermuda and Pitcairn Island exist across the globe. They are cultural oddities, often seeming more British than Britain. These are colonial remnants; anachronistic entities that no longer hold much strategic value, and which often require expensive policing at the behest of the citizens.

[Related story: Sean Penn in Team America territory after Falklands rant]

In this respect, the UK has the position of a benign and remote protector.

However, what seems to be a game-changer here is the discovery of oil, and with the UK’s Rockhopper Exploration PLC establishing a drilling platform in the Falklands Basin, a sensitive diplomatic situation has become even more volatile.

The Argentina of today is a different country to the one which invaded the islands in 1982. Despite a stuttering economy, the population is well educated, secular and they even have a liberal female president. No junta here.

Furthermore, Argentina ranks second highest in the Human Development Index in South America. This index measures countries on their level of health, education and welfare. Argentina is now on a par with many European countries.

Also, does Britain which has a severely reduced Navy and huge national debts really want another conflict?

The prospect of incredible wealth under the waters of the South Atlantic should spur diplomats to seek a solution where both nations and - just as importantly - the islanders would benefit of this unexpected but welcomed bounty.