I have always felt deeply uncomfortable that, as a country, we should rely on income earned through arms sales. Although I understand the commercial reality of the world we live in, arms sales have always left a bad taste in my mouth. As I have said before, we should aspire to be better – to encourage British manufacturing pride in alternative sectors. I am not naïve to the fact that this cannot happen overnight, however, it needs to be our long term goal.
Previously I have been satisfied by government reassurances; we operate one of the most robust export control regimes in the world and the government has always reassured me that they take their defence export responsibilities extremely seriously. Export licence applications are assessed against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licencing criteria on a case-by-case basis. This takes account of all circumstances at the time of application including human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL) considerations.
Recently, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) brought legal action against Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade. CAAT’s legal action was based on sources that argued Saudi Arabia was violating IHL through their conflict with Yemen. The Court of Appeal ruled that the UK government broke the law by selling arms to Saudi Arabia and accused ministers of failing to investigate, or acknowledge, whether the airstrikes that killed civilians in Yemen broke IHL. This deeply concerns me.
Liam Fox , Secretary of State for International Trade, released a statement on the ruling which you can read following the link here. The statement issued says that the government will appeal the court’s decision, but no doubt we will have to wait a lengthy period for the outcome.
In the meantime, I intend to equip myself with as much knowledge surrounding the situation as possible. I have been in contact with CAAT and arranged a meeting with their specialist to discuss their research and the court case in further detail.
It is disappointing that I no longer feel satisfied by government reassurances, but when the Court of Appeal rules the government has violated IHL, I will not sit back and turn a blind eye.