By Mark Curtis
Reviewing British arms exports for the ten-year period under New Labour, the figures speak for themselves:
– The UK has exported £45 billion worth of arms around the world since 1997.
– Over £110m of military equipment has gone to Israel, throughout a period of offensive operations in the occupied territories and war with Lebanon
– Iraq has again become a large British arms market; over £130m have been exported since the invasion in 2003.
– Half a billion pounds worth of military and ‘other’ equipment has gone to China, which is under an EU arms embargo. Arms have also gone to Hong Kong, controlled by China.
– Indonesia has used UK equipment for repressive purposes on at least a dozen occasions in the Labour years.
– The UK continues to arm many of the world’s poorest countries. South Africa, for example, has received over £400m worth of UK military equipment in the Labour years. Nearly £150m of arms have gone to Nigeria under Labour, including armoured vehicles, rifles, shotguns and small arms ammunition.
Britain’s arms exports industry has been thriving under Labour, not because of the economic benefits to the country – the evidence is overwhelming that arms exports cost the taxpayer more than they generate, given the level of taxpayer subsidies. The major reason is that arms exports are a key part of UK foreign policy, especially in enhancing relationships with repressive regimes and elites, and because a small number of big corporations wield major influence over government policy; in fact help set it…..