Britain is the second biggest arms dealer in the world after the US, according to new statistics from the Department of International Trade.
The new figures reveal that between 2010 and 2019, UK companies made deals worth £86bn around the world providing weapons, military equipment and services.
Sixty per cent of UK exports went to the Middle East where conflicts have raged including in Iraq and Yemen, where war has resulted in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. More than 2000 children have been killed in Yemen since 2015.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said the figures were a “source of great shame” and that the UK is “arming and supporting repression around the world”.
The UK Government says it has won “significant defence orders” during the past decade including Typhoon aircraft to Saudi Arabia.
The new figures were published by the Department of International Trade. They show that in 2019 the UK had a 16 per cent share of the global arms trade.
This compares with the world’s largest arms exporter, America, which had a 47 per cent share. Russia and France had 11 and 10 per cent, respectively.
Since 2010, 60 percent of UK exports and contracts have gone to the region, with Saudi Arabia the largest buyer.
UK-made fighter jets and smart-bombs made in Scotland, have played a central role in the ongoing Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen.
According to the United Nations, the bombing has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
Andrew Smith, of Campaign Against Arms Trade, said: “Arms dealers will be celebrating, but these figures should be a source of great shame. Boris Johnson and his colleagues are always talking about ‘Global Britain’ and the importance of human rights and democracy, but they are arming and supporting repression around the world.”
He added: “These sales are not just numbers on a spreadsheet: for people around the world they could be a matter of life and death. UK-made weapons have played a devastating role in the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen, helping to create the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
“Wherever there is conflict there will always be arms companies trying to profit from it. This profiteering does not just enable war, it actively fuels it. The sales being approved today could be used in atrocities and abuses for many years to come.”
Publishing its new statistics today, the UK’s Department of International Trade (DIT) said: “On a rolling 10 year basis, the UK remains the second largest global defence exporter after the USA.
“The UK share of the global defence export market was estimated at 16 percent in 2019. The UK’s largest defence export markets were the Middle East, Europe and North America.”
The DIT said the Middle East remains the “dominant UK export destination” reflecting the “continued importance of the market” to the UK.
North America was the second highest region for UK defence exporters, accounting for almost one fifth of total UK defence exports.
Europe and the Asia-Pacific were the next most important regional markets for the UK.
The UK is also Europe’s leading defence exporter, the DIT said.
In reply to CAAT’s comment, a UK government spokesperson said: “The government takes its export responsibilities seriously and assesses all export licences in accordance with strict licensing criteria. We will not issue any export licences where to do so would be inconsistent with these criteria.
“Also, the government supports responsible defence and security industries, which make an important contribution to the UK’s global economic competitiveness, as well as sustaining tens of thousands of highly skilled manufacturing and engineering-based jobs across the UK.”
The Ferret reported recently that UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia were branded “immoral”, after a report accused the oil-rich state of systematic violations of international law in Yemen.
UK defence export information is based upon data provided by UK companies.
Data for the rest of the world is derived from open source reporting of other countries’ defence export contracts.
This story was updated at 08.16 on 7 October 2020 to add a comment from the UK government.
Eurofighter Typhoon | CC | Ronnie Macdonald | https://flic.kr/p/a6tqW2