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Amy English

Congressional Liaison for the Foreign and Security Policy Group

Part of UK in USA

15th August 2012 Washington DC, USA

Blossoming relations between small Islands and a large nation

You know you’re British when the first conversation starts, and continues, with the weather.

Falkland Islands
Falkland Islands

I descended upon the Falkland Islands in the early afternoon to glorious sunshine and a cool breeze – exactly what I needed after a long flight full of recycled air. As soon as my ride picked me up from Mount Pleasant Airport, he immediately commented on the weather: “You’ve arrived on a perfect day.”  Having been warned of blustering, Antarctic conditions of the Islands, I was taken aback by the mildness of the climate.

The weather remains a staple of British conversation because it changes so often, but in the Falklands, weather patterns are far more rebellious, changing from sun to rain to snow, back to sunshine, often in the course of an hour. The following day, greeted with the cold front I had literally braced myself for, I put on my warm wellies and windproof jacket and took to the streets of Stanley.

My British identity took immediately to the comforts of discussing the varying climates, drinking many cups of tea, indulging in Falklands lamb and taking part in the local quiz night. Yet when I delved into local shops to pick up obligatory penguin memorabilia and Falklands wool and into the local pubs for a bite to eat, I could sense the anticipation of changing times in the Falklands. The territory that formerly relied upon agriculture and farming still define Falklands culture, but new industries and opportunities have started to shape their future prospects.

Falkland Islands Fisheries Department
Falkland Islands Fisheries Department

The past decades have witnessed the Falkland Islands develop into a self-sustaining economy, with a vibrant fisheries sector that fulfills Spain’s love of squid, an agriculture community that provides lamb to European nations and a tourism department that welcomes a wide range of visitors from Europe and Latin America, among them history buffs and penguin lovers. Yet what really struck me was the growing connection the Islanders have developed with the US.

First, the Falkland Islands and neighbouring UK territory South Georgia provide a consistent supply of Toothfish to Whole Foods, a US supermarket food chain well known for its high-quality produce. You won’t find Toothfish in the shops, however, as this white, flaky fish is most commonly known to American diners as Chilean Sea Bass.

Another unlikely commonality is (wait for it) the two-step! Country music has generally been slow to catch on in foreign territory, but I was quite impressed that Shania Twain and Tim McGraw had made their way—way—down South to encourage some dancing. Although Port Stanley is technically a city (it boasts a stunning 19th century cathedral), with a population of roughly 3,000 it feels more like a welcoming village. With well-attended local gatherings at the town hall, having a dance with your husband, wife, neighbour or colleague is often the nightcap for an evening’s festivities.

Amy and the Penguins
Amy and the Penguins

In recent years, American tourists have contributed to the increasing number of visitors to the Islands, with most arriving by cruise ship. This past season, cruise arrivals brought around 35,000 tourists, often doubling the Islands’ entire population when they come ashore! With Antarctic cruises offered by Princess Cruises and Holland America, there is no shortage of opportunities to visit the Falklands and meet their most adored inhabitants, the penguins.

These links are small, but growing. The booming economy of the Islands in sectors like fisheries, tourism, oil exploration and environmental research suggests that a prosperous relationship between the US and the Falklands has only just begun. With last week’s news by Noble Energy’s announcement last week of its investment in oil exploration—the first such involvement by a US company—I expect that the two-step will soon be joined by significant economic links, putting the Falklands into the US spotlight.

3 comments on “Blossoming relations between small Islands and a large nation

  1. With US economic links increasing and its often professed love of self determination of peoples, a self professed champion of democratic values, why is obama declaring neutrality in the Falklands debate. I’m told the US now officially refers to the Falkland as malvinus?? With a well documented 100% of their population demanding the world to recognize that they wish to remain British why are the brave Falkland Islanders not supported in their democratic rights by the US. Could it be some thing to do with obama courting the Hispanic vote in the upcoming US elections? Or is it chasing trade with argentina? I truly don’t understand how the US government can justify this to its people let alone the world. Anyway I’m off to watch the latest BBC news on the British Army casualty figures from Afghanistan were several of my friends are fighting in support of our American ‘allies’. I

    1. The UK – like the Islanders themselves – has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland Islands. The US has a long-held position of neutrality over the status of the islands, the reasons for which are a matter for State Department to explain. Naturally we hope all countries, including the US, will recognise the right of the Islanders to determine their own constitutional arrangements and their own future. There will be a referendum on this question next year that we expect will confirm overwhelming support on the Falkland Islands for the current arrangements. We continue to support their right to self-determination with all countries.

  2. Many thanks Amy for that very concise report. Delighted to hear that the Falklanders have advanced beyond sheep production and may they prosper.
    Hope to catch up with Dad and Mother’s more recent exploits soon.
    Ian and Judy

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About Amy English

Amy English is Congressional Liaison for the Foreign and Security Policy Group at the British Embassy in Washington. Before joining the Embassy, Amy managed communications and public affairs for a…

Amy English is Congressional Liaison for the Foreign and Security Policy Group at the British Embassy in Washington. Before joining the Embassy, Amy managed communications and public affairs for a nonprofit organization against child sex trafficking, travelling throughout the United States and the Caribbean to raise the level of response among civil society, governments and legislators. Amy has spent her life crossing the pond; she studied Politics at the University of San Diego, but returned to her homeland to obtain her postgraduate degree in International Relations from the University of Warwick.