The Spanish particularly support Argentina’s claim
In July, the UK suffered a minor diplomatic defeat when the EU signed a deal with Latin American nations that referred to the Falkland Islands by Argentina’s preferred name of ‘Islas Malvinas’.
“Frantic” last minute bids by British diplomats failed to avert the wording, and Rishi Sunak subsequently described the move as “regrettable”, while Argentina’s undersecretary for Latin American and Caribbean affairs described the achievement as “a very important step”.
So does the EU’s language reflect a tendency on the part of Europeans to dispute the UK’s sovereignty of the islands? A new YouGov EuroTrack survey put the question to several Western European EU nations (as well as the UK and USA): should the Falkland Islands belong to the United Kingdom or Argentina?
Here in Britain, the majority of people (57%) think the Falklands should belong to the UK. One in six (16%) say the islands should belong to Argentina, and 27% are unsure.
A separate YouGov survey recently found that the British public’s emotional connection to the Falkland Islands is not especially strong. Only 35% say they would be upset if the Falklands went to Argentina, with 46% saying they wouldn’t be bothered and 9% saying they’d be actively pleased.
By contrast, in Spain, 52% of people say the Falklands should be Argentinian, with only 14% saying they should be British. This may well reflect Spanish frustration with their own similar dispute with Britain over sovereignty of Gibraltar, as well potentially as solidarity with a country more Spaniards consider similar to their own than the UK.
Opinion in the rest of Western Europe is less certain. In France – reportedly the only nation to propose caution on the use of ‘Malvinas’ in the EU’s document – 27% support the Argentinian claim to the islands, compared to 23% for the UK’s.
Italians and Germans also tend to favour Argentinian sovereignty of the islands, at 30-32% compared to 21-24% who back the British status quo.
The two Nordic nations surveyed – Denmark and Sweden – tend to come down on the UK’s side, with the former backing British rule by 31% to 23%, and the latter by 28% to 23%.
Americans too weigh in on Britain’s side, saying the Falkland Islands should fall under British sovereignty by 35% to 24% for Argentina.