EXCL Labour manifesto will pledge to defend Falklands despite previous Jeremy Corbyn comments

Posted On: 
28th April 2017

Labour's general election manifesto will contain a pledge to defend the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands - despite Jeremy Corbyn's previous call for an "accommodation" to be found with Argentina about their future.

Margaret Thatcher visits the Falkland Islands in 1992.
PA Images

In a major victory for Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, the document - to be launched on 15 May - will make clear that the disputed territory will remain British for as long as those living there want to be.

Ms Thornberry dropped a massive hint about Labour's approach at the end of a visit to Gibraltar, whose status as a British overseas territory has also been at the centre of fierce debate in light of the Brexit vote.

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She said: "Britain’s overseas territories are a fundamental part of our national history and Labour will always stand up for the rights, interests and self-determination of their citizens, whether that means protecting the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands against anyone who would seek to challenge it, or supporting the right of the Chagos Islanders to return to their homelands in Diego Garcia."

A senior Labour source said: "Expect similar language in the manifesto."

Ms Thornberry's remarks about the Falklands are at odds with comments made by Jeremy Corbyn in January last year.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: "There has to be a discussion about how we can bring about some reasonable accommodation with Argentina.

"It seems to me ridiculous that in the 21st century we could get into some enormous conflict with Argentina about the islands just off it. Yes, of course the islanders have an enormous say in this; let's bring about some sensible dialogue.

"It happened before I'm sure it could happen again."

Falkland Islanders voted overwhelmingly to remain British in a referendum in 2013.

On a turnout of more than 90%, 1,513 were in favour, with just three against.

Mr Corbyn has made clear his support for the people of Gibraltar to remain British - a stance repeated by Ms Thornberry.

She said: "The Labour party remains unequivocally committed to protecting the sovereignty of Gibraltar and the right of its people to self-determination."

A furious row broke out earlier this month when the EU’s Brexit negotiating plans appeared to give Spain the right to exclude Gibraltar from any UK-EU transitional single market access arrangement, or trade deal if it is not satisfied with the status of the territory.

Former Tory leader Michael Fallon suggested that Theresa May would be willing to go to war to defend Gibraltar.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: "We are very clear that there cannot be a change in the status and sovereignty of Gibraltar unless the people of Gibraltar agree to it and they don't, they clearly don't. That is not going to happen. Gibraltar's going to be involved in these negotiations...and there will in the end, of course, be an agreement that fully respects the position of Gibraltar."