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Labour to block sale of British weapons to repressive regimes

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Activists rally in front of the UK Parliament to protest British arms sales to Saudi Arabia. (file photo)

The British opposition Labour Party plans to take measures aimed at blocking the sale of British-built weapons and military technology to repressive regimes, including Saudi Arabia, an official says.

“Every Labour government would wish to uphold the strongest licensing criteria to ensure that any UK exports could not be used for repression or human rights abuse,” Barry Gardiner, the shadow International Trade Secretary, told The Independent.

File photo of Barry Gardiner

His remarks come as the government of Prime Minister Theresa May has recently licensed £3.5 billion worth of arms export to the Saudi kingdom.

Also, a stream of British ministers have traveled to the country to solicit trade in spite of its military aggression against Yemen for more than two years, which has so far claimed the lives of at least 12,000 people.

The UK is the world’s second biggest arms exporter, according to government figures.

A report published by The Guardian last May showed that the UK was selling record quantities of arms to countries the Foreign Office listed as having poor human rights records, including but not limited to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Burundi and the Maldives.

In 2015, over £3 billion of British-made weaponry was licensed for export to 21 of those countries, according to the report.

Gardiner uncovered Labour’s plan days after Defense Secretary Michael Fallon extolled a notorious missile manufacturer that sold missiles to Libya's former ruler Muammer Qaddafi and the Saudi regime as a “role model” for post-Brexit trade.

 Fallon arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in central London, on April 18, 2017. (Photo by AFP) 

Fallon praised MBDA, saying it is “strengthening the reputation of this country” and is “a role model for the kind of partnerships we’ll be seeking” after leaving the European Union.

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Gardiner discussed how the party is preparing a broader strategy to take advantage of trade opportunities overseas to boost industries at home as Labour is preparing its general election manifesto.

Asked whether action on arms sales to repressive regimes would be tackled in Labour’s manifesto, he did not elaborate on the plan, but said, “Our party has always pledged to embed human rights and social justice into our trade policy.”

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