Theresa May vowed the sovereignty of the islands has not changed and will not change as she became the first UK Prime Minister to set foot in Buenos Aires and the only Tory premier to visit the country. A British military task force ejected Argentine troops when they landed on the islands in 1982 to stake a territorial claim on the area it calls Las Malvinas. Mrs May made clear she was prepared to defend the islands in the face of any fresh threat.
Speaking to reporters as she flew into Buenos Aires, she said: “I’m clear that our position on the sovereignty of the Falklands as not changed.”
The comments were poised to cause diplomatic strain as Mrs May met Argentina’s Mauricio Macri.
Tensions flared over sovereignty of the Falklands under previous president, Cristina Kirchner, but have calmed since President Macri took over in 2015.
Mrs May stressed relations have improved between London and Buenos Aires and pointed to plans announced earlier this week for a new air link between the Falklands and the South American mainland via Argentina as proof of more positive engagement.
Talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit between the Prime Minister and her Argentinian counterpart were focused on trade.
But President Macri was expected to raise the Falklands during the private meeting.
Asked if the UK remained ready to defend the Islands with military force if necessary,
Mrs May insisted the UK’s position on the Falklands would not change.
She said: “What has changed in recent months is that we have seen better relations with Argentina.
“I think the announcement we saw earlier this week of the extra flight for the Falklands through to South America is important.
“It’s important for the Falklands. It’s important in showing a different relationship developing.
“I’ll be talking to President Macri about issues around trade, about the opportunities for trade.
“But our position on the sovereignty of the Falklands has not changed and will not change.”