The UK arms trade with repressive regimes has no moral or economic sense

(The Guardian, London, 20 December 2017) As the spectre of Brexit emerges, so do the first meaningful signs of the Tory vision of “building a global Britain”. The Department for International Trade, set up by Theresa May to put some flesh on the bones of her slogan, has prioritised arms sales for Britain’s post-Brexit industrial policy. The DIT, which licences Britain’s exports guns, planes and bombs, has overseen a sharp spike in sales to repressive regimes, many of which it has identified as “priority markets”. The biggest of these is Saudi Arabia, which is using our arms to bomb into famine its political enemies in Yemen. Our arms export control regime clearly states that it is illegal for the government to licence weapons to nations that oppress their own people or violate international humanitarian law. When buyers cannot afford our weapons, the government subsidises loans for them through export credit guarantees; UK Export Finance, which is supposed to support all British exports, says 50% of the support it provides (in the form of loans or guarantees) was given to defence exports.