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SINCE resuming arms sales to Saudi Arabia last year, Britain has licenced £1.4 billion worth of weapons – including bombs and missiles – to the regime, according to new government figures.
A ban on new arms export licences to the Gulf state was lifted in July 2020 after government lawyers claimed that any violations of international law by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen were “isolated incidents.”
The latest official figures on export controls, published today, reveal that the government wasted no time in putting arms back into the hands of the Saudi regime, licencing £1.4bn worth of arms exports between July and September last year.
This brings the total cost of British-made weapons sold to the Saudi-coalition since the bombing of Yemen in 2015 to an eye-watering £6.8bn.
“The trade in war was temporarily interrupted between Britain and Saudi Arabia, but now it’s back with a vengeance,” Stop the War’s Lindsey German said.
She said that the billions of pounds should be “translated into deaths from bombing and disease in Yemen.”
Campaign Against the Arms Trade’s Sarah Waldron said that the new figures “once again illustrate the UK government’s determination to keep supplying arms at any cost.”
Labour MP Zarah Sultana described the figures as “utterly shameful.”
“These weapons are used in a war that has caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and where evidence of war crimes is widespread. That should be a national scandal.
“But even now the government is refusing to follow the US in suspending arms sales. When US foreign policy makes Britain look bad, it’s clear how horrific it is for the government to sell these weapons.”
The government has come under mounting pressure to halt arms sales, including from its own MPs, following US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw military support for the war.
On Monday, Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said that Britain makes its own decisions about selling weapons, and insisted that the government “takes its own arms export responsibilities very seriously.”
But Labour MP Apsana Begum, who recently spoke at an international day of action against war in Yemen, said Britain’s refusal to follow suit is “outrageous.”
“To allow arms trade profiteering to the tune of nearly £1.4bn, against the backdrop of a human rights catastrophe, is the action of a morally bankrupt government.”
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