Wednesday, July 23, 2014

uk and the arms trade

Yes, I probably have a very simplistic view of the world of politics and global business, but news that the UK was exporting arms to Russia (despite David Cameron’s previous assertion that an absolute arms embargo had been put in place) should come as no surprise. According to a cross-party group of MPs, there are more than 200 licences in place to sell arms to Putin’s government.
Please note, I’m certainly NOT claiming that this is some sort of Tory conspiracy, because I’m fully aware that ALL UK governments over recent decades have been actively encouraging the growth of arm sales in this country.
I find it all SO depressing.
I suggest you read this article by Owen Jones in today’s Guardian to get a sense of the scale of the UK arms trade.
Presently, the only meaningful constraint on arms exports is political embarrassment. Restrictions on arms sales are put in place when particularly shaming sales are uncovered
or when a buyer, to the Government’s apparent shock, uses the weaponry it has bought.
UK governments have consistently tried to justify the arms trade on the basis that:
a)    Arms exports are important for national security
b)   They’re vital to the UK economy and jobs, and
c)    They’re stringently regulated.
The “Campaign Against Arms Trade” argues that such “justifications” are all false.
Here are some extracts from CAAT’s website:
1. The 55,000 arms export jobs comprise less than 0.2% of the UK workforce.
2. The exports themselves are less than 1.5% of total UK exports, and even this is an overestimate of their importance as 40% of the value of the exports was imported in the first place.
3. Arms exports are subsidised by the taxpayer (27% UK Government research expenditure is spent on arms and 54% UK Trade+Investment staff committed to selling arms).
4. There is an engineering skills shortage.
5. High profile arms export deals rarely result in significant UK jobs as production moves overseas. In August 2010, BAE sold 57 Hawk jets to India in the headline deal of a David Cameron-led trade delegation to the country. All of the aircraft will be made in India and, while the deal is worth £700 million, it will generate only 200 jobs in the UK.

Of the 16 countries identified by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute as locations of major armed conflict in 2009, the UK sold arms to 12.
In the Foreign Office Report (2010) on Human Rights and Democracy, the following countries were “UK arms buyers” on the Foreign Office’s list of countries with “the most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns”:
Afghanistan, Belarus, China, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Vietnam and Yemen.
And it’s ALL being done in OUR name.

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