Handover of Falklands 'should be encouraged'

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Indy Politics

Britain considered surrendering sovereignty of the Falkland Islands to Argentina 14 years before the countries went to war in 1982, documents released today reveal.

Lord Chalfont, who was a junior Foreign Office minister in Harold Wilson's Labour government in 1968, said the islanders would have no economic future without closer co-operation with Argentina.

The peer had visited Port Stanley where he told the ruling council: "We have never and do not regard the Argentine claim [of sovereignty] as a valid one." But in a Foreign Office memorandum, released by the Public Record Office, he wrote: "I believe the Falkland Islanders may one day be prepared to choose Argentine sovereignty ... We must show the islanders the advantages to be derived from closer association with Argentina, leading gradually but inexorably to the acceptance of Argentine sovereignty."

The peer, who described the islanders as "unsophisticated", also wrote that Britain would no longer be able to "provide any continuous form of defence of the Falkland Islands against external attack".

The Foreign Office eventually decided not to proceed with the handover, because of opposition within the Cabinet.