Britain has dramatically increased the value of weaponry and defence equipment it sells to the world’s most repressive regimes since vows by senior ministers to expand arms exports after the Brexit vote.
Figures seen by i show that the Government cleared export licences worth £2.9bn in the 12 months after June 2016 to 35 countries considered “not free” by Freedom House, a respected international think-tank. The figure represents a 28 per cent increase on the 12 months before the Brexit vote.
Among the countries to which ministers have given the green light for military equipment sales are Equatorial Guinea, considered to be one of the most corrupt and repressive countries in the world. Licences worth £1m were also granted for Azerbaijan, accused by human rights campaigners of conducting a vicious campaign against freedom of expression, while Uzbekistan, which is rated by Freedom House as one of the least free countries in the world, was granted a licence to import military vehicle components worth nearly £200,000.
The Government has singled out arms sales as a priority area for Britain’s post-Brexit trade push. …
The data, based on official Government figures, shows Britain increased its exports to 17 out 35 countries considered by Freedom House to be “not free” when judged against human rights criteria. Uzbekistan is rated as scoring three out of 100 on the organisation’s freedom index, while Equatorial Guinea is rated at eight. The UK scores 95. …
Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a member of the select committee on arms control exports, told i: “The Government’s back of the envelope post Brexit industrial policy is to have Liam Fox drum up as much new international business for UK arms manufacturers as possible.
“But with the UK’s broken arms export control regime, this so-called strategy further erodes human rights and global security. In value, Britain’s arms exports are worth about the same as its exports in beverages. This plan is less a plan for improving British public finances in the wake of Brexit but more one for lining the pockets of the shareholders of British arms dealers. It is another policy designed to benefit the few over the many.”
Britain increases arms exports to world’s most repressive regimes by nearly a third since Brexit vote