Opinion: They really are the best of British

In the South Atlantic, where the wind howls and the waves crash against rocky shores, lies a small cluster of islands that have been a subject of international interest for decades, writes Peterborough MP Paul Bristow.
Laying a wreath at the memorial in The Falkland IslandsLaying a wreath at the memorial in The Falkland Islands
Laying a wreath at the memorial in The Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands, made up of over 770 islands have a rich history and last week, I had the honour of visiting the overseas territory with a group of MPs and Peers.

The Falkland Islands Government put together this trip so we could understand the challenges this super little community faces. With a population of just over 3,500 - they are more British than the British.

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The Falkland Islanders are proud to be British and have been here since 1833.

As a British overseas territory, the Falklands have internal self-governance, the United Kingdom takes responsibility for their defence and foreign affairs and their right to self-determination remains absolute.

In 1982 Argentina invaded the Falklands. They were confident that Britain wouldn’t react, assuming these islands were not an important interest and we would not defend them.

But they had seriously underestimated the British Prime minister: Margaret Thatcher.

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HMS Invincible was in the lead as she said all those years ago and within 72 days a British Taskforce retook the islands.

During my time there I learnt a lot about the locals, their culture and way of life is very similar to ours. Fishing and agriculture are main stays for the economy, the community has become wealthy on the back of granting fishing licenses and they are now self-sufficient and prosperous.

The islands are the gateway to Antarctica and are home to many rare and unique species. The UK operates a conservation zone protecting those species and their habitats.

We now have a significant military presence in the South Atlantic - supporting the interests of the Western Alliance and ensuring horrors such as the 1982 invasion never happen again.

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During the trip, there was also an opportunity to remember those armed forces personnel who fought to liberate the islands. I had the privilege to lay a wreath remembering those brave 255 British armed forces personnel and three Islanders who died in the 1982 Falklands War. We remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

I even had the pleasure of meeting four Peterborough people while I was out there who now live in the Falklands.

One person I met was Peterborough Ice Hockey superstar Grant Budd. He coaches the Stanley Penguins.

Their team competes all across South America and has beaten all comers despite being an ice hockey team without any ice! I would love to return the favour and get them to visit Peterborough and show them our amazing city.

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My time in the Falklands was educational and a truly inspiring. The resilient spirit and kindness of all the people there is the best of British. Their self-determination and self-governance is their birth right. For as long as they want to be British they will have my backing as well as that of the people of Peterborough and the whole of the UK.