Philip Hensher: My radical solution to the Argentine problem

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With the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War, tensions are rising once more between the owners – Britain – and the islands' nearest continental neighbour – Argentina.

In 2007, Argentina restated its claim to the Falklands, which have been British since 1833.

In 2010, Britain made a further claim to the territory around the islands, in pursuance of mineral rights (it seems as if there may be a good deal of oil thereabouts).

Argentina has been responding to the recent history and the recent claims of Britain by restricting access. Cristina Kirchner, the Argentine president, has threatened to ban aircraft bound for the Falklands from passing through their airspace. She has succeeded in persuading her neighbours to ban shipping bearing the Falklands flag from entering their ports.

There is a certain amount of bullishness over the Falklands still.

David Cameron said about as bad a thing as you can say about a contemporary politician, accusing President Kirchner of "colonialism". Kirchner said Cameron was "bordering on stupidity".

This week, HMS Dauntless was dispatched. Prince William, as part of his tour of duty, was sent off wearing what Buenos Aires called "the uniform of the conqueror".

Kirchner insists that she only wants to talk, but the British government seems pretty sure that there is nothing at all to talk about.

I have a drastic suggestion.

Let's offer to sell the Falkland Islands to Argentina.

The idea of selling sovereign territory seems an incredible one to us, but it was a common thing until relatively recently. In 1803, America bought Louisiana from France for $15m; in 1867, Alaska from Russia for $7.2m; and, between 1916 and 1917, the Virgin Islands from Denmark for $25m in gold.

Germany bought the Caroline Islands from Spain in 1899. In the 1660s, the Dutch and the English agreed to swap an island called Manhattan. Very recently the idea that a hard-up country might sell some sovereign territory to more responsible economies has surfaced again. Greece, with its thousands of islands and shell-shocked economy, has received a number of more-or-less serious offers.

Working out the value of sovereign territory is difficult, but it might be worth raising the question with the Argentinians.

We've got absolutely no money. I really doubt we have much stomach for another Falklands War and then another. They are clearly passionately keen to acquire some territory with rich resources, high GDP and as much sentimental value as you can maintain for something 300 miles from your coastline. If they really want these islands, we might as well abandon any shame and sell them to them, priced by the acre.

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