Britain will be forced to suspend the sale of what potentially could be billions of pounds worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia if it loses a high-profile legal case on Monday. The EU council common position on arms sales compels the UK to deny an export licence if there is “a clear risk” equipment might be used in violation of international humanitarian law.
The high court is due to give its verdict in a judicial review that puts arms sales export policy in the dock and has the potential to embarrass the government. The ruling comes at a crucial time for bilateral relations. The government has been accused of burying a report into the funding of terrorism in the UK that is believed to be particularly critical of Saudi Arabia, the largest buyer of British arms. The UK has licensed more than £3bn of arms to Saudi Arabia in the last two years alone.
Britain has also licensed £140m worth of arms to Qatar, which stands accused of funding terrorists. Licences issued include those for the export of aircraft, small arms ammunition, sniper rifles and components for helicopters.