‘British ships wouldn’t have sunk’ Vine guest savages French over Falklands ‘kill switch’

Iain Dale hits out at French over Falklands ‘kill switch’

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Iain Dale has hit out at France after British MPs demanded an inquiry into whether the French supplied Exocet missiles used by Argentina in the Falklands war contained a hidden “kill switch”. Former French President François Mitterrand had denied claims such a kill switch, which would have enabled the missile to be disarmed en route, existed. The Exocet missiles have been linked to the death of 46 British soldiers during the war with Argentina.

Mr Dale told Jeremy Vine: “If they had, I don’t know how you implement the kill switch, but assuming that they did have the ability to do it, there would have been quite a few British ships that wouldn’t have been sunk.

“Over 255 British service people that were killed in the Falklands War and quite a high proportion of those would not have lost their lives had the French done this.”

HMS Sheffield was struck by an Exocet missile during the Falklands War.

The warship finally sank on May 10 and 20 British sailors died.

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It was the first British ship to be lost to enemy action since World War II.

Defence Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood urged the French Government to shed light on the claims the missiles could have been remotely deactivated.

Mr Ellwood said: “We don’t know the wider decision-making that surrounded this. Indeed, those responsible might not even be alive today.

“As we look to future battles we must learn from past events, and that includes how we work with allies and how we share critical intelligence.

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“It certainly would have been game-changing had France chosen to share this characteristic of the Exocet.”

Speaking to mark the 40th anniversary of the conflict, Argentina’s Ambassador to the UK, Javier Figueroa said wrangling over the Falkland islands’ sovereignty was “ridiculous.”

He went on to compare the relationship between the islands and Argentina with that of North and South Korea.

Mr Figueroa said most young people in the UK have no idea “Britain has a beef with Argentina regarding the South Atlantic”.

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The issue of the islands’ sovereignty does not have “high visibility” in public opinion in the UK, he said, but in Argentina, it has “huge visibility in public opinion and the ruling class”.

Mr Figueroa said: “This asymmetry is a problem.

“In Argentina, the war is still a wound – an open wound. It’s almost 40 years, but in Argentina, it’s a deeply emotional issue.

“It’s not only emotional, it is political as well. The Malvinas [Falklands] question is the highest priority of my country in foreign policy.”

He said the issue is like a “monster in a room roaring” when it came to relations between the UK and Argentina, and he wants to re-engage in negotiations with the UK Government to discuss the islands’ sovereignty.

“It’s unbelievable that after 40 years we have a situation like North Korea/South Korea in the South Atlantic, which is ridiculous,” he said.

Mr Figueroa referred to recent polling by the charity Help for Heroes which showed the Falklands conflict risks becoming a “forgotten war”, with half of those aged 18-34 reporting they do not know when the war was fought, and one in 10 of that age group believing the islands are in the English Channel.

“I am completely sure that the new generation [do not] have any idea regarding the war or that Britain has a beef with Argentina regarding the South Atlantic,” Mr Figueroa said.

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