“It is unacceptable to engage in an economic blockade of the Falklands, there can be no justification, legal, moral or political, for efforts to intimidate the people of the Falkland Islands”, said Foreign Officer Minister Jeremy Browne on Wednesday.
This was the first official reaction from Britain to Tuesday’s statement by Mercosur country members to bar from their ports all vessels flying the Falklands’ flag.
“I am concerned by the decision of the Mercosur group of countries to prevent ships that fly the flag of the Falkland Islands from entering their ports. Falklands-flagged vessels have been regular visitors to South American ports for 150 years”, said Mr Browne.
The ban on Falklands’ flagged vessels was made public in Montevideo at the end of a two-day Mercosur summit hosted by Uruguay’s Jose Mujica and which convened presidents Cristina Fernandez from Argentina; Dilma Rousseff from Brazil; Fernando Lugo from Paraguay, plus Hugo Chavez from Venezuela, whose country is in the process of full incorporation to the group and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa who formally requested to become a member of the South American trade block.
Browne added that it is not yet clear what the practical impact of the Mercosur statement might be “as it reflects similar language used in the region previously. Some countries take a different view from us on our sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. It is for the people of the Falkland Islands to determine their future”.
However “it is unacceptable to engage in an economic blockade of the Falklands. Mercosur should take the responsible decision and not do this. There can be no justification – legal, moral or political – for efforts to intimidate the people of the Falkland Islands”.
Finally Browne said he had instructed British Ambassadors in the region to raise this issue as a matter of urgency to clarify exactly whether or how Mercosur countries propose to implement this agreement.
“We will then consider our next steps in light of information we receive. But no one should be in any doubt about the British Government’s commitment to support the Falkland Islanders’ right to determine their own political future” concluded the Foreign Office Minister.
According to the Falklands Fishing companies association, FIFCA, the Falkland Islands have been part of the red ensign group since 1861 and since 2003 has adopted parts I and II of the UK merchant shipping Act 1995”.