Liz Truss’s claim to have “inadvertently” approved the sale of military hardware to Saudi Arabia should be enough to have her sacked for incompetence – but there is a better use for her.
The decision has put the International Trade Secretary in contempt of the Court of Appeal, which ordered the Tory government not to approve any new licences to Saudi for use in Yemen and to retake all the decisions on existing licences in a legally compliant manner.
It seems clear that these orders have been ignored by a government department that has a “longstanding and shameful” policy of maximising arms sales regardless of the consequences.
As Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade points out in his Independent article:
This surely discredits the government’s tired old mantra that the UK supposedly has some of the most “rigorous” and “robust” arms export controls in the world.
Since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015 the UK has licensed £5.3bn worth of arms to the Saudi regime, including fighter jets, bombs and missiles. These weapons have played a central role in the brutal war, which has created the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.
The extent of the UK government’s support was on display last week when a Saudi military delegation was invited to London by Truss’s department for Defence & Security Equipment International 2019 (DSEI), the biggest arms fair in the world.
While at DSEI, Saudi representatives will have been welcomed by UK civil servants and lobbied for further sales by the world’s biggest arms companies. Nobody will have dared to utter a word about the abysmal state of human rights in Saudi Arabia or the human cost of its bombardment of Yemen.
At the heart of discussions will have been the prospect of further fighter jet sales. Since 2016, the government has been in negotiations with the Saudi Royal Family and the UK’s largest arms company, BAE Systems, to secure the sale of 48 Eurofighter jets.
The deal, which appears to have been put on hold following the court verdict and the international condemnation of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, is thought to be worth £10bn. With that kind of money on the table, government ministers have been prepared to act as cheerleaders for the arms industry.
Mr Smith says 60,000 Yemeni people have already died. If this £10 billion deal goes through, many thousands more are also likely to perish.
Because Tories believe money is more important than lives.
That is the only explanation that allows us to understand why the Conservatives are willing to put themselves in contempt of the UK courts (and consider what this portends for the Supreme Court’s decision on Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament, next week).
I don’t want to be complicit in the murder of thousands more innocent people, encouraged by my government.
The only way to stop it, it seems, is to ensure that the dimwit who has been allowing it is made to do what she should have been doing in the first place.
Let’s see Liz Truss stay in post, for now – but only to show us how she is putting the Court of Appeal’s order into practise, and the concrete results arising from it.