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Falkland Islands: Brits Think Oil Makes Territory Worth Defending, Poll Shows

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Argentinians burn a Union Jack flag outsde the British embassy in Buenos Aires
Argentinians burn a Union Jack flag outsde the British embassy in Buenos Aires

A majority of Britons think the dispute over the Falklands is more about oil than the rights of the islanders, but also agree that potential mineral wealth makes them worth defending.

A poll conducted by ComRes for ITV News published on Thursday revealed that 53% of those asked thought the UK and Argentinian government's were more concerned about securing the rights to mineral resources than the islands themselves.

Only 16% thought London and Buenos Aires' primary concern was the islanders.

However a majority of people, 43%, thought the British government was right to try to keep control of the islands "due to the economic and geographic benefits which the Islands give" - compared to 21% who thought that would be wrong.

The diplomatic friction between Argentina and Britain has intensified since 2010, when London authorised oil prospecting in the waters around the islands.

However in January the then energy secretary Chris Huhne described the initial results from oil exploration in waters around the Falklands as "disappointing".

The poll was carried out on 20-22 January, since when the diplomatic temperature has been raised significantly.

Argentina has condemned the Royal Navy's decision to deploy an advanced destroyer to the region as well as the arrival of Prince William on the islands.

David Cameron stressed today that Britain would "defend the Falkland Islands properly" in response to Argentina complaining to the UN about Britain "militarising" the South Atlantic.

London has consistently argued that it is up to the residents of the islands to determine who they want to be governed by. A view backed by 76% of those asked by ComRes.

A majority of those surveyed, 61%, agreed that the British government should keep "all options open" including taking military action when responding to any possible threat of a Falklands invasion.

However, 43%, also felt David Cameron was "making an issue" of the Falkland Islands in order to divert attention away from the state of the British economy. While 32% disagreed.

Last week the Argentinian president accused the British government of increasing the rhetoric over the islands in order to distract from internal problems.

"It seems the population is having a bad time and they are trying to cover up that situation with this bravado," vice-president Amado Boudou said in early February.