Street sign in Westminster, NW1 saying 'Whitehall'

Lobbying your MP

We look at the most common arguments MPs and government ministers have used to justify continuing arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and suggest responses.

Last updated 5 October 2020

Thank you to everyone who has written to their MP about UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Despite massive public pressure to stop the arms sales, the government has instead done everything it can to maintain its relationship with Saudi Arabia, the UK’s biggest arms customer. Our action is crucial to hold it to account.

Responding to your MP

Here we look at the most common arguments MPs and government ministers have used to justify continuing arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and suggest responses. Please consider responding to their arguments to ensure your representatives look beyond the government’s rhetoric.

“After years of documenting the terrible toll of this war, no one can say ‘we did not know what was happening in Yemen’. Accountability is key to ensure that justice is served to the people of Yemen and to humanity.”

UN Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen, 3rd report to the Human Rights Council, September 2020

Debunking the arguments

The government's justifications for continuing the sales .. and why they don't add up

Cardboard sign with words UK makes a "killing" by selling weapons and arms. In front of a poster with a warrior fighting vehicle and a soldier masked with a helmet.

They say: UK arms aren’t used in war crimes

The UK government claims it doesn't allow arms to be sold where they will be used to violate international humanitarian law - but this is simply not true. It claims war crimes in Yemen are 'isolated incidents' but there are documented patterns of violations by the Saudi-led coalition.

Eurofighter Typhoon large outdoor poster captioned Effective, proven, trusted. Flats behind include German, Spain, Italy UK

They say: Arms exports give influence

The UK government claims arms sales give it influence over Saudi Arabia. If this is so, it is very hard to see where this is having an effect. Instead, we can see that when Saudi Arabia buys UK arms, it also buys political support and silence about its abuses.

Saudi Arabia Typhoon combat aircraft, viewed from the front

Clément Alloing, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

They say: If we didn’t do it…

A common, terribly flawed, argument used to justify arms sales says that if we didn't do it, someone else would. This is not just immoral; it is also not true that UK weapons could be easily replaced. Stopping the sales would help stop the war.

Writing a personal letter to your MP

You can use CAAT’s email tool to send a letter to your MP in two minutes, but a letter in your own words can have even more impact. Here are some points it could be useful to include and links to find out more.

Key points:

  • The Saudi Arabian-led bombing of Yemen has had a devastating impact, killing thousands of civilians, and destroying essential infrastructure. There is overwhelming evidence that the attacks have violated international humanitarian law.
  • The humanitarian disaster in Yemen – described by the UN as the worst in the world – is a direct consequence of the war. Bombing by the Saudi-led coalition has targeted food supplies and health facilities.
  • UK weapons have been central to the attacks, in breach of UK, European and international rules on arms sales.
  • The government’s continued licensing of arms exports to Saudi Arabia is being challenged in the Courts. But it shouldn’t take legal action to make the government follow its own rules.
  • The UK should end arms sales to Saudi Arabia immediately and support an independent investigation into the violations.

Personal lobbying letters can be really powerful. This creative approach is one way of making sure your correspondence stands out!

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