Falkland Islands New Years Radio Address, Gordon Brown MP
2008 has brought enormous challenges with the downturn in the global economy. I know that your Government’s financial situation is under pressure, and that you are taking steps to find budgetary savings. None of us is immune, and we all have to do our best to plan against further shocks to the global economic system.
Exploration for oil and gas around the Falkland Islands continues. The British Government will continue to support your ambition to develop this into a viable and secure sector of your economy. We will provide guidance and advice to ensure that your Government is able to plan for and manage all of the problems and responsibilities that come with a hydrocarbons sector, be they health and safety, security, or socio-economic.
But extraction is still a far-off and uncertain prospect. So your Government is right to try to diversify your economy further. Success will of course depend on a close working relationship between the government and business sectors, committed to the same goals.
Maintaining physical links between the United Kingdom and the Falkland Islands is important. I’m pleased that the Ministry of Defence has been able to deliver a new Airbridge contract, with a more regular service. I know the importance of this Airbridge to your Government’s plans to develop business and tourist traffic. I hope that this new service will support that.
I am sorry that the large Argentine next of kin visit to the Islands has still not taken place. I know that your Government wants this visit to happen. I hope that this is the year we can find an acceptable way forward.
We shall continue to encourage the Argentine Government to co-operate on matters of mutual interest and concern, such as the conservation of fisheries in the south west Atlantic, and to build business and communications links between the islands and all other countries within the region. We will also make it clear that we want to work with Argentina if we are to address the world’s future needs and problems, from finance to terrorism, and drugs to non-proliferation.
We shall discuss all these issues openly with Argentina. But we will, as always, make it clear in any such discussions that we have no doubts about the United Kingdom’s sovereignty of the Falkland Islands. There can be no negotiations on the sovereignty of your Islands unless and until such time as you so wish.
Next year, you will have elections for a new Council. that will be an important expression of the democratic tradition in the Islands that we shall seek always to uphold.
I wish all on the Falkland Islands happiness, good health and good fortune for 2009.