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By 1972 the Islanders had gained an effective veto over what could happen to their home. Denied by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, this was, however, the reality. Civil servants did not have to face the House of Commons, and those Ministers that had were unwilling to repeat the experience. Parliament and the people were firmly behind the Falklanders and their wish to remain British. Whether that was in the best interests of the Islands, or Britain’s relationship with South America, had become largely irrelevant. Whatever the FCO could come up with would have to go through the Parliamentary process and was doomed to failure unless the Islanders could be convinced to accept what they were offered. It simply was never going to happen.
The adoption of Resolution 2625 by the United Nations in 1970 made the job even harder. While Britain had consistently denied that self-determination was anything more than a principle – an ideal – 2625 planted it as a right in international law. The UK had little choice but to acknowledge that.
The result was that British negotiators increasingly argued that only the Islanders could decide on the outcome. Something that Argentina could not accept, knowing full well that they were not an attractive proposition to the people of the archipelago. The Falklands were Little Britain, and no amount of tempting them with flights, services, hospitals or university educations was ever likely to change that.
Under pressure from the UN, however, Big Britain had little choice but to try and convince Little Britain that there could be another way. Towards the end of the decade, both sides knew that they were just treading water. Argentina’s frustrations would lead it to try a change of tactic.
By 1981 both Argentina and Britain were playing for time, albeit for very different reasons.