The United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (MoD) has rubbished claims that the Falkland Islands have been left without protection, due to the absence of a British warship (frigate or destroyer) permanently based in the south Atlantic. The MoD defended itself following reports that the Falkland Islands were without the protection of a British frigate or destroyer for the first time since the conflict in 1982.
According to the report in The Independent, no warship has been sent to the region since the return of a frigate (HMS Lancaster) in November last year. This was blamed on a lack of manpower, the deployment of vessels to keep an eye on Russian naval activities and engine issues with the Royal Navy's Type 45 destroyers.
The Royal Navy's commitment in that area comes under Atlantic Patrol Tasking, and extends from West Africa across to South America.
The report added that several warships had been confined to port due to a shortage in manpower and technical issues, including HMS Dauntless and HMS Lancaster, which were reportedly docked in Portsmouth.
Rejecting the claims that safeguards for Falklands Islanders were absent, an MoD spokesman said: HMS Dauntless and HMS Lancaster are not mothballed and remain very much part of the fleet. The Navy is meeting its commitments from the Baltic Sea to the Gulf and the Falklands remains well-protected via the patrol warship HMS Clyde, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ship and around 1,200 personnel operating RAF Typhoons and ground defenses.
However Shadow Defense Secretary Emily Thornberry offered a damning verdict of the situation and called for it to be immediately rectified. In one area after another we have seen the impact of the savage cuts made to our armed forces since David Cameron came to office, but even by those low standards, it is unacceptable that the government is failing to provide the protection for the Falkland Islands that has been promised, and that that Islands have a right to expect as British citizens, said Thornberry.
By 2015, more than 20,000 British army personnel had been cut from the British military – three years ahead of a target set in 2018, during the Coalition government, claimed Thornberry.
Three years ago, the people of the Falklands voted in a referendum overwhelmingly in favor of remaining a UK overseas territory.
However, last week the Argentine foreign ministry jumped on the findings of a UN commission that expand the country's maritime territory into the south Atlantic Ocean, to renew its claims over the South Atlantic islands.
The Falklands is a British overseas territory, meaning the MoD is obliged to protect it. Last February defense secretary Michael Fallon became the first minister to visit the Islands in more than a decade.