Annual Falklands Liberation Reception: Middle Temple: June 2017

Strong message of reassurance from FCO Minister, Sir Alan Duncan, at the annual Falkland Islands Government (FIG) reception, this year commemorating the 35th anniversary of the liberation of the Falklands in 1982. MLA Jan Cheek upbeat on the development of the Falkland Islands’ economy, despite uncertainties over Brexit and the Argentine Government’s lack of progress in implementing its September 2016 commitments to lift the barriers to trade and communications with the Falkland Islands, imposed by the Kirchner regime. 

Falkland Islanders and friends of the Falklands gathered in Middle Temple Hall on 13 June to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the liberation of the Falkland Islands from Argentine military occupation in 1982. The usual venue – Lincoln’s Inn – was not available because of restoration work; Middle Temple was an impressively fine alternative. 

Sir Alan Duncan, newly reappointed as Minister of State in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) – this was his first outside public appointment as Minister following the formation of the minority Conservative Government after the general election on 8 June – stressed that, whilst the UK sought a better bilateral relationship with Argentina, this would not put sovereignty at risk. He said: "We look forward to reconciliation wherever we can find it but always while defending and respecting the sovereignty of the Islands – so long as that is your choice. So do not think that our commitment has in any way been diluted – quite the opposite.” His toast was "To the future of the Falkland Islands and your ever protected sovereignty.” On 14 June, he issued a statement saying "Whilst our relationship with Argentina is improving, our resolve to support the Falkland Islanders remains just as strong as it did 35 years ago. We remain committed to upholding the right of the Falkland Islanders to determine their own future and to remain British in line with their wishes.” 

The Hon. Jan Cheek, Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), gave a broad overview of the Falkland Islands’ political, social and economic development since 1982 and painted an optimistic picture of the Islands’ future. But she expressed disappointment at the lack of progress by the new Argentine administration in removing the barriers to trade and communications with the Falkland Islands that had been put into legislation by the previous Kirchner regime. Argentine commitments made in the September 2016 talks with Sir Alan Duncan had not been taken forward. Argentina had, for example, been invited to resume co-operation on the exchange of fisheries data but to no avail. And now, she said, ‘there are uncertainties surrounding Brexit.’ 

Jan Cheek also paid tribute to the work of Sukey Cameron, the FIG’s Representative in London and her colleagues in FIGO. Her extensive contacts in the UK Parliament and elsewhere helped to maintain the strong cross-party support for the Falkland Islanders (both the Conservative and Labour Party manifestos had repeated their commitment to the principle of self-determination for the UK Overseas Territories). 

Alan Huckle, Chairman of the Falkland Islands Association (FIA) and former Governor of the Falkland Islands, proposed the Loyal Toast, having read out the exchange of greetings both with HM the Queen and, on his retirement from active public duties, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. 

After the reception, the band of the Parachute Regiment beat retreat with the salute being taken by Sukey Cameron MBE and Lt. General Sir Hew Pike KCB, DSO, MBE (who commanded 3 Para during the Falklands Conflict). 

At his request, Sir Alan Duncan had a photograph taken with the four former Governors attending the reception – David Tatham (1992-95), Richard Ralph (1996-99), Donald Lamont (1999-2002) and Alan Huckle (2006-10).