The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has made an historic visit to Argentina, where he laid a wreath in Buenos Aires to commemorate those who died in the 1982 Falklands conflict. Mr Johnson is the first Foreign Secretary to visit South American country since 1993 in a promising sign that the Government is working avidly to healing old wounds.
Visiting the memorial at the Monumento a los caídos en Malvinas – Malvinas being the name by which Argentinians know the islands in the south Atlantic – with his Argentinian counterpart, Jorge Faurie, Mr Johnson said that:
“It is an honour to join foreign minister Faurie today, and to lay a wreath at the Monument to the Fallen, commemorating all those who died in the Falkland Islands conflict.”
The monument where they both lay wreaths commemorates the 649 Argentinian soldiers who died; but Johnson paid tribute to the casualties on both sides.
The UK is making the right steps to repairing this troubled relationship, which was thrust into deep freeze by Argentine presidents Nestor Kirchner and Cristina Kirchner between 2003 and 2015.
But following the arrival of their successor Mauricio Macri, Argentina has downplayed its rhetoric over the disputed islands and is now seeking engagement with the wider world, including by hosting the G20.
This is a mood the British Government must take advantage of. As we move into a post-Brexit Britain, it will be essential for us to work alongside countries and put aside historical differences. We must put aside conflicts over land ownership and work out how we can both help each other.
Speaking ahead of his trip to the region, Boris Johnson stressed that he wants us to now look towards this part of the world:
“I am looking forward to strengthening the UK’s relationship with countries in the region…Latin America is a vibrant and dynamic part of the world that works closely with the UK on a number of issues including trade, security, science, infrastructure and education, among others.”
Where the UK will struggle is that Argentina is part of a trading bloc which includes Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Such a trading bloc means that the UK only provides one per cent of imports in each of the countries in this trading bloc.
Downing Street will have to push to increase this number if we are to take full advantage of the current sense of good will but this will not be impossible.
Already, there have been discussions about greater access for fisheries and both countries have signed a memorandum of understanding surrounding science and technology research projects. Such agreements place the UK in a strong place when it comes to wider areas of trade.
Boris Johnson’s diplomatic efforts are also set to be confirmed when Theresa May will become the first prime minister since Tony Blair in 2001 to visit Argentina when she takes part in the leaders’ summit in November.
Of course, these discussion won’t immediately heal the wounds of the past but they are positive steps in the right direction. There is no more important time for us to mend fences and reclaim our stance as a truly, global Britain.