UK is world’s second biggest arms dealer

The UK was the second biggest a​rms exporter in the world from 2010-2019 with £86 billion worth of arms sales, according to official figures.

Almost 60% of sales went to the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia being by far the largest buyer.

UK-made weapons have played a central role in the Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen. According to the United Nations, the bombing has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

New figures, published by the Department of International Trade, show that only the U.S. surpassed the UK in arms exports between 2010-2019.

The UK arms industry is dominated by aerospace, which accounted for 88% of sales and contracts. This includes radars and missiles etc as well as aircraft. Major buyers of UK-aerospace equipment include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Oman, USA and Qatar.

In June 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled that the government acted unlawfully when it licensed the sale of UK-made arms to Saudi-led forces for use in Yemen without making an assessment as to whether or not past incidents amounted to breaches of International Humanitarian Law.

The government was ordered not to approve any new licences and to retake the decisions on extant licences in a lawful manner.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “Arms dealers will be celebrating, but these figures should be a source of great shame. Boris Johnson and his colleagues are always talking about ‘Global Britain’ and the importance of human rights and democracy, but they are arming and supporting repression around the world.

“These sales are not just numbers on a spreadsheet: for people around the world they could be a matter of life and death. UK-made weapons have played a devastating role in the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen, helping to create the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

“Wherever there is conflict there will always be arms companies trying to profit from it. This profiteering does not just enable war, it actively fuels it. The sales being approved today could be used in atrocities and abuses for many years to come.”

The UK government has said that the UK’s defence exports generate thousands of high-value and highly-skilled jobs and sustain capabilities that help keep the country safe.

The UK announced in July it would resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia after they were temporarily suspended last year.

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