£1.4 billion worth of arms exports licensed to Saudi Arabia in aftermath of decision to resume arms sales

As UK refuses to follow US lead, new figures reveal £1.4 billion worth of arms exports licensed to Saudi Arabia in aftermath of decision to resume arms sales.

  • New figures followed decision to resume arms sales after Court of Appeal ban
  • UK-made arms have played a central role in the Saudi-led destruction of Yemen
  • UK has licensed a total of £6.8 billion worth of arms to Saudi forces since the bombing began in March 2015

New government statistics, published today, show that the UK Government licensed £1.4 billion worth of weapons sales to Saudi Arabian forces in the immediate aftermath of its decision to renew arms sales to the regime in July 2020. The majority of these licences are for ML4 licences which cover bombs, missiles and countermeasures.

The UK government yesterday refused calls to follow the US lead and end arms exports for use in the war in Yemen. The UK is one of Saudi Arabia’s leading arms suppliers, along with the US, and UK arms are playing a central role in the Saudi-led destruction of Yemen. The UK-made equipment used in the war includes Typhoon and Tornado aircraft, Paveway bombs and Brimstone and Stormshadow missiles.

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. This followed a case brought by CAAT. The government was ordered not to approve any new licences and to retake the decisions on extant licences in a lawful manner.

In July 2020 the government announced that it was resuming arms sales. This followed a review by the Department of International Trade which concluded that any violations of International Humanitarian Law committed by the Saudi coalition were ‘isolated incidents’, despite the fact that hundreds of attacks on residential areas, schools, hospitals, civilian gatherings, and agricultural land and facilities have been documented. Today’s statistics are the first to be published since the decision to renew sales was made.

In October 2020, CAAT filed a new legal challenge against the government’s decision to resume sales.

Today’s announcement means that, since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed £6.8 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime, including:

  • £2.7 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
  • £3.9 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)

The real level of exports is a great deal higher, with most weapons licensed via the opaque and secretive Open Licence system. The UK’s biggest arms company, BAE Systems, has made £15 billion in revenue from services and sales to Saudi Arabia since 2015.

Sarah Waldron of Campaign Against Arms Trade said:

These new figures are shocking and once again illustrate the UK government’s determination to keep supplying arms at any cost.

UK-made weapons have played a devastating role in the Saudi-led attacks on Yemen, and the humanitarian crisis they have created, yet the UK government has done everything it can to keep the arms sales flowing.

The arms sales are immoral, and we believe that the decision to renew them was illegal, which is why we have filed a case to challenge it.

Now even the US is curbing its arms sales, while the UK government is continuing to fuel the war.  They must change course now and work to support meaningful peace.

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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