Argentina eyes Brexit advantage in Falklands dispute


By Robert-Jan BartunekBRUSSELS, April 20 (Reuters) - Argentina believes Brexit
might cost Britain the support of European allies for its
control of the Falkland Islands and is watching developments
closely, the Argentinian foreign minister said in Brussels.
    Visiting the EU capital for trade talks on Thursday, Susana
Malcorra stressed it was too soon to say whether Britain
quitting the bloc may soften Union backing for London against an
18th-century claim to the South Atlantic islands that Buenos
Aires has maintained despite losing a brief war there in 1982.
    "The European Union, through its agreements, is connected
very closely and strongly to the United Kingdom," Malcorra told
reporters when asked if Brexit could have an impact on the
Falklands dispute, on which the 16-month-old administration of
President Mauricio Macri has taken a more conciliatory approach.
    "It could be that things change there. But I think it is
still quite early. Brexit is just starting and there are many
issues. We are following it carefully."
    A spokesman for the EU's foreign policy service declined
comment on whether the bloc might change policy on the
Falklands, which receive some development funding from Brussels.
    Argentina's interest in potential fallout for the islands it
calls the Malvinas after Britain's vote last year to leave the
EU is part of broader uncertainty for outlying territories of
what was once the world's biggest empire.
    The people of Gibraltar, on the south coast of Spain, fear
economic upheaval once they are placed outside the EU's external
border when Britain leaves the Union, in March 2019.
    Britain's right-wing press fulminated last month against EU
plans to spell out that fellow member Madrid, which claims
sovereignty over "The Rock", should have a veto over applying
any future EU-UK free trade deal to Gibraltar. [nL5N1HB3PB]
    A former leader of Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative
party even suggested she would be ready to send a fleet to
defend it from Spain - just as her predecessor Margaret Thatcher
did to drive Argentinian troops from the Falklands.
    Closer to home, British-ruled Northern Ireland, whose people
voted against Brexit, are concerned a new UK-EU border there
could rekindle violence. Separatists want a vote to reunite the
island, a century after the Irish Republic broke with London.
    And in Britain itself, the government of Scotland wants a
new referendum to end the 310-year-old union with England so
that Scots can remain in, or later rejoin, the European Union.

 (Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Alison Williams)
 ((; Reuters Messaging:


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