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What is the UK arms trade worth?

What do government and industry say the arms trade brings in jobs and income, and what's the real story?

Last updated 15 June 2022

How much money does arms trade bring the UK?

Arms exports are estimated to be worth around £7 billion per year, which means they make up just 1.4% of total UK exports.

What about jobs?

The arms industry’s trade association (ADS) estimates the UK has around 55,000 arms export jobs. Using this figure, 0.2% of the UK workforce is employed in producing arms for export.

Using government and industry data, CAAT estimates that there are 170,000 jobs in the UK arms industry: 115,000 at the Ministry of Defence, and 55,000 in company arms exports (see CAAT’s Arms to Renewables briefing for details).


Misleading job figures

However the government and arms industry relentlessly say there are 300,000 UK arms industry jobs. This has become the standard number used by the media.

This is misleading because it includes around 100,000 jobs from unrelated spending by the Ministry of Defence on items such as gas, water and electricity, and maintaining the defence estate.

Government involvement in the arms trade

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Government support

The UK arms trade would not be possible without the unwavering support of the UK Government. It does not just oversee the arms trade. It is an active participant, working to promote and secure arms deals around the world, with little regard for the impact of these sales.

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Political Influence

How arms companies' influence in Westminster's corridors of power means arms sales are prioritised over arms control, and business interests are prioritised over human rights.

CAAT would not exist without its supporters. Each new supporter helps us strengthen our call for an end to the international arms trade.

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