An interesting article by Edward Robinson was published on the New Internationalist blog last week, detailling how a recent parliamentary inquiry into Britain’s arms exports found that the criterion for embargoing arms has been relaxed in recent years.
The nub of the matter is that, instead of the refusing an arms export licence where there is “concern that the goods might be used for internal repression or international aggression”, the current business secretary has stated that licences are only refused when there is a “clear risk” that the arms may be used for repression [italics added]. A clear risk may be difficult to prove until the arms have already been used – at which point revoking the licence does not do much good.
You can take action against this change at Peace Hub: pop in to sign our petition calling on the Foriegn Office to embargo arms to repressive regimes, such as Egypt.
The full article explains the issue in detail. Edward Robinson is standing at the next election, so his discussion of the party-political aspect should be taken in that context. But the underlying point stands: the UK must take a principled position to limit the damaging effects of the arms trade.