The Guardian has reported that unveiling this month’s budget, the British government revealed plans for the creation of a “£1bn [$1.2 billion fund] to support overseas buyers of UK defence and security goods and services”, which is expected to be overseen by the country’s Export Finance.
The UK-based organisation Campaign Against Arms Trade immediately lashed out at the government over the move which the group said is a sign that that “even in times of crisis, the government is showing that it will go to any length to sell as many weapons as possible”.
Spokesman Andrew Smith argued that “the arms deals being supported with this money could be used in enabling atrocities and abuses for years to come”.
He insisted that the government “should be regulating and controlling arms sales”, instead of “using public money and doing everything it can to promote them”.
Smith also referred to the ongoing crisis in Yemen which he said indicates how policies pertaining to promotion of British arms sales may backfire.
“Over the last five years we have seen the devastating impact of UK-made fighter jets, bombs, and missiles on Yemen. The war has killed tens of thousands of people and created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Those arms sales need to end now, but so do the policies that allowed them to happen in the first place”, he underscored.
The statement came after Sky News reported, citing figures released by the UK Department of Trade Agreements and compiled by Campaign Against Arms Trade, that Britain had sold at least £5.7 billion ($7.45 billion) worth of arms to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.
According to figures, the UK government licensed £4.7 billion ($5.8 billion) worth of arms to Saudi Arabia alone, while another batch of weapons worth £1 billion ($1.2 billion) was sold to other members of the coalition.
The Saudi-led coalition has been engaged in the civil war in Yemen since March 2015, when it started to carry out airstrikes against the Houthi armed rebels at the request of Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
The Yemeni civil war has claimed over 7,000 lives, while over 20 million people in Yemen are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, according to UN estimates.