ICFUAE'S Open Letter to Diana Johnson MP Regarding UK-UAE Arms Trade
Dear Diana Johnson MP,
I am writing to you on behalf of the International Campaign for Freedom in the UAE, a human rights group that campaigns for the release of all political prisoners, and an end to arbitrary detention and torture in the UAE.
I am contacting you in relation to comments you made recently concerning job losses in your constituency as result of cutbacks at British based arms manufacturer, BAE systems.
Not only did you dismiss the well-documented role that the green energy sector could play in diversifying our economy away from the arms sector, you then went on to state that
“Now we need more active support from the Government for winning key defence orders around the world - exactly what we're told is meant to happen with Brexit”
Indeed, it is with Brexit on the horizon that it was recently announced that UK/UAE bilateral trade is set to double to £25bn. The UK arms industry will no doubt form an important component to this deal as, in the last three years alone, the British government has licensed £350m arms to be exported to the United Arab Emirates. Many of these weapons have gone on to be used in the UAE's bloody campaign in Yemen.
At the same time as, there have been numerous reports which reveal that the UAE is contravening UN Arms Trade Treaties by exporting weaponry to Sudan, Libya, Eritrea and Somalia; this makes the UK an indirect supplier of weapons to these conflict areas.
Furthermore, earlier this year, a BBC investigation found that British weapons manufacturer BAE Systems had been exporting cyber-surveillance and security software to the UAE, which the Emirati authorities have used to spy on their citizens. In 2016 alone, around 300 people were detained for comments made on social media. Without BAE's assistance in terms of acquiring these technologies the UAE would not be able to exercise this kind of control over its citizens.
Is it really this vision of Brexit that the Labour Party holds - one in which our trade deficit with the EU is offset by boosting weapons sales around the world to regimes with appalling human rights records?
Whilst I understand and respect your immediate concerns for your constituents in terms of job losses, I also implore you to think of the scores of people in the UAE and across the world whose lives are destroyed daily as a result of BAE System’s weapons and technology. Some of the brilliant skills that people working in the arms sector have could be reorientated towards developing the technologies of tomorrow that have the potential to save lives, make life better and, save the planet. In doing this, Britain can shine a light upon the world stage as it leaves the EU.