Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Tail Wagging The Dog - Guest Post

If the energy expended on working out whether England subsidises Scotland or whether all North Sea oil is in Scottish territorial waters could be connected up to the National Grid, the the wind turbine programme could be cancelled and electricity bills scrapped.

It is ironic that no mention is made of the Barnett Formula in connection with the Falklands Islands public finances. 

The Falklands Islands government had revenues of £42.4 million from fisheries licences and taxation in 2009/10 and spent £47.6 million on public services for the Falklands. The Falkland Islands is “economically self-sufficient”, only relying on the UK for foreign affairs and defence. Defence of the Falkland Islands, ie one airbase, four Typhoon fighters, three radar stations, one thousand service men and women, several helicopters, one frigate, a patrol ship and a submarine costs “about 0.5% of the UK defence budget”, ie about £180 million per year for 3,000 people with a per capita income of about £40,000 and no unemployment.  Compare that with Scotland’s figures of about £21,000 and unemployment around 8%. That's not fair.

But, people say, so long as the Falklanders wish to remain a self-governing British Overseas Territory, we should skew the defence budget to protect the 3,000 mile logistics neck down to the South Atlantic. One or both of the £10 billion Queen Elizabeth class carriers is allegedly vital for the islands’ defence. After all, there may be oil down there – ignoring the fact the tax revenues from which will stay in Port Stanley

Another argument is that the Falkland Islanders wish to live there with red phone boxes and fish and chips and Coronation Street on cable TV and we should support their right to do so. But that right was never granted to the inconveniently black Chagossians who were evicted from their homes in 1965 to enable the Diego Garcia base to be built. Thanks to a cunning plan in the form of a maritime nature reserve they will never be allowed to return.

The final argument propounded is that because 256 British servicemen died in 1982 to recapture the islands from Argentine invaders, the ground is sacred and forever part of Britain. Yet the UK is planning to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2015 after losing 375 sons and daughters and the vast majority of the 16,000 military deaths since 1945 were in former parts of the British Empire.

Is it fair for the wishes of 3,000 people to dictate the defence and foreign policy of 61,000,000? In Warwickshire, hundreds of people will be forced to leave their lifetime homes that will be compulsorily purchased for the unpopular HS2 trainline and thousands forced to endure noise and loss of amenity for the “greater good”. Isn’t a negotiated transfer of sovereignty, with the opportunity of generous compensation and relocation to the UK or even New Zealand for people who didn’t want to stay, be the only sustainable solution to an ongoing problem that will be an increasing burden on the defence budget?


subrosa said...

It is ironic that the Falklands aren't treated in a similar way Brian.

Your knowledge surpasses much of what I've read about the islands and really does show the UK government's distorted and unrealistic views.

No it's not fair for 3,000 folk to dictate policy but we hear so little about this and people have such short memories about military deaths, or did they think in the 80s that there was still some form of glory in war?

Excellent post and thanks.

Apogee said...

Hi Brian and SR. I'm late tonight, or I should say this morning.
I think that the Falklands had more to do with "loss of Face " than any thing else, other than to show that we could and would defend our territory. I have no dispute with that. I am surprised that the Falkland Islanders will keep all the oil revenue that they get. Where the hell did we go wrong?
I do think that they should pay a fair share to their defence, mind you if there is oil there, they could end up with a bigger navy and air force than we have,which wouldn't be hard.
As for the islanders of Diego Garcia, they were very unfortunate in their time and place in history.I can agree with your sentiments, the point is that neither the British or USA governments delt honestly with them,so what's new, their treatment was not fair, they should have not been left at a disadvantage, but where to put them. All the nearby islands were inhabited and as usual, it was done as cheaply as possible. For that we have to blame ourselves as a country, because we as a country voted the sods into power, did we not?We should perhaps be more careful at elections and stop believing politicians, we know they all tell us lies, IE what we want to hear!But the greenback had/has a lot of power.

Brian said...

Hi Rosie and Apogee,
Many thanks for your kind comments.
What people forget after nigh on thirty years of Task Force Falklands, is that until the Argentine invasion it had been Tory government policy, firstly by Nicholas Ridley then by Lord Luce (as he became) to achieve a negotiated transfer of sovereignty with the consent of the islanders. As an example of the narrowness of the Establishment, the captain of HMS Coventry, sunk on 25 May 1982, was the brother-in-law of Richard Luce, junior FO Minister.
We owe it to the memory of the 256 brave souls lost to resolve the matter peacefully and permanently before another lot are killed and wounded. It is a military axiom that lives should only be risked to hold strategically or tactically necessary land. Otherwise, withdrawal to a shortened more easily defended line of is preferred.
The Falklands War may indeed have toppled the Argentine Junta and restored democracy and it is the responsibility of statesmen and women to consolidate and build on that. Instead, the situation is deteriorating again.

cabalamat said...

"One or both of the £10 billion Queen Elizabeth class carriers is allegedly vital for the islands’ defence."

Given that they won't actually get aircraft until 2020, I can only assume that HMG won't mind if Argentina invades before then!

More seriously, large surface warships are extremely vulnerable to anti-ship missiles, something that should have been obvious since the sinking of HMS Egret by a German Hs293 guided weapon in 1943.

(I say "should have been" because most navies, such as the RN, don't want to accept this fact, since their force structure is based around getting jobs for senior officers. The fact that there have been no major naval wars since 1945 has made the vulnerability less obvious.)

So if Argentina was sensible, they'd invest in long-raise cruise/anti-ship missiles, which would serve them well if they ever went to war with Britain again.

Brian said...

@cabalamat: good points, well made. The military forget hard won lessons almost as soon as they are learnt if they run counter to its preferred doctrine of fighting wars. Despite our renewed entente with France, I have no doubt their salesmen are schmoozing in Rio.
btw the Type 42s sent to the Falklands in 1982 had a black line painted on their funnels to distinguish them from other Type 42s we had sold to Argentina. And West Germany delivered 4 frigates to Argentina in 1983-4. We have such nice allies :)

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