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by Steve Sweeney
THE British government is subsidising the arms trade by up to £142 million a year, a report revealed yesterday, as it was accused of complicity with the “ongoing destruction of Yemen.”
The report, by Sipri — a research body specialising in conflict — for the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), exposes the “huge overall level of government support” for the arms industry.
Some £10 million is spent on support which includes lobbying by the Prime Minister with up to £73m being used to subsidise export credit guarantees, the study reveals.
The report argues that export subsidies are the result of a desire to maintain the domestic arms industry rather than the Ministry of Defence’s claim that it saves them money. CAAT spokesperson Andrew Smith accused the government of “pulling out all stops to support companies that arm some of the most oppressive regimes in the world.”
The organisation says that Britain has licensed £3.3 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, including aircraft, missiles and tanks since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015.
British company BAE Systems is reportedly in talks to sell more fighter jets to the Saudis with the support of the government.
Amnesty International reports that 83 per cent of the Yemeni population are in need of humanitarian assistance with almost two-and-half-million people internally displaced as a result of the bombing. Earlier this week the government rejected calls from House of Commons committees to suspend arms exports to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen.
A joint response issued by Liam Fox, Boris Johnson, Michael Fallon and Priti Patel read: “The government is confident in its robust case-by-case assessment and is satisfied that extant licences for Saudi Arabia are compliant with the UK’s export licensing criteria.”
However Mr Smith said the government was “in denial about the devastating impact of the Saudi-led bombardment and its own complicity in it. “It’s clear that arms company profits are being prioritised over the human rights and lives of Yemeni people.
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“If 10,000 deaths, the destruction of valuable infrastructure and serious allegations of war crimes are not enough, then what will it take for the UK to finally stop arming the Saudi regime?”
British arms sales to Saudi Arabia are currently subject to a judicial review following an application by CAAT with a review set for February 2017.
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