UK second biggest arms trader in the world, @SIPRIorg report finds

Middle East sales to abusive regimes boost British arms industry

BRITISH CORPORATIONS continue to punch above their weight in selling war weapons across the globe, a peace institute research group has found.

The annual report into the world's 100 largest arms trade companies found that the UK came second only to the USA in the scale of its weapons industry for 2014.

Of the mammoth $401bn of arms sold by the companies, 10.4 per cent is split between eight UK businesses. The UK Government also boasts of being the world's second biggest arms exporter, which included sales to 28 countries which abuse human rights .

The largest UK arms corporation is BAE Systems, the world's third arms seller, with over $25.7bn in orders. Rolls-Royce is the 16th largest arms trader, with $5.4bn mainly in engine sales.

The other major UK arms corporations in the top 100 include Babcock (25th), Serco (49th), Cobham (53rd), QuinetiQ (72nd), GKN (79th) and Meggitt (87th).

The figures, from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), reveal the latest evidence on the scale of the UK arms trade, which profits from tens of billions of pounds of sales to repressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Bahrain, and Syria.

The industry has seen a boost to its share values across the world following the Paris attacks , as countries and private firms launch further bombing campaigns in the Middle East and scale up military spending.

The UK Government provides unrivalled domestic support to arms dealers through the UK Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO), which promotes sales to abusive regimes for UK businesses.

In July UKTI DSO reported that "the UK has successfully retained its position as the second largest defence exporter globally" including 66 per cent of exports to the volatile Middle East region.

"The UK, USA and France are the major suppliers to the region," according to the UKTI DSO.

Responding to the report, Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade told CommonSpace: "The fact that the UK arms trade comes second only to the United States is a sign of the support it gets from the UK government. These companies thrive off conflict and rely on compliant governments in order to do so. BAE Systems, for example, does a huge amount of business in the Middle East, and its fighter jets are central to the destruction that has been unleashed on the people of Yemen."

UK weapons sold to Saudi Arabia are being used in reported war crimes in Yemen , including the bombing of schools and killing of innocent civilians .

Previous atrocities linked to UK arms sales include Indonesia's 'encirclement and annihilation' campaign in East Timor, Israel's 'Operation Cast Lead' which killed 350 children in Gaza, Palestine, the killing of 7,000 Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka, the suppression of democracy protests in Bahrain and Egypt by Saudi Arabia and Mubarak respectively, and the arming of Gaddafi's Libya .

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Picture courtesy of Oxfam International