Jeremy Corbyn puts more pressure on Theresa May over Saudi arms exports
Theresa May has defended the UK’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia, amid mounting warnings that British weapons are being used in illegal attacks in Yemen.
The Government has repeatedly resisted calls to halt arms exports to the Kingdom, arguing that the “key test” of whether there is a “clear risk” of UK arms being used to violate international humanitarian law has not yet been met.
Jeremy Corbyn reiterated his call for the Government to block arms sales temporarily after a committee of MPs said it was “very difficult” to continue justifying exports given the weight of evidence stacking up.
Speaking in the Commons, Mrs May said she had raised concerns about the allegations of breaches of humanitarian law in Yemen with the Saudi deputy crown prince.
“I did raise with him the concerns about the reports of what has happened in Yemen,” she said. “I insisted that these should be properly investigated...
“[But] actually what matters is the strength of our relationship with Saudi Arabia on issues like dealing with terrorism, on counter-terrorism issues. It is that relationship that has helped to keep people on the streets of Britain safe.”
According to a draft report seen by BBC Newsnight, the Committees on Arms Export Controls has concluded that it is highly likely that British weapons have been used in attacks that breach international law.
“The weight of evidence of violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition is now so great, that it is very difficult to continue to support Saudi Arabia,” the MPs said.
Labour leader Mr Corbyn had said the Saudi operations in Yemen were causing “humanitarian devastation”.
“I remain concerned at the heart of this Government’s security policy also is apparently increased arms exports to the very part of the world that most immediately threatens security,” he told MPs.
“The British Government continues to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, which are being used to commit crimes against humanity in Yemen, which has been clearly detailed by the UN and other independent agencies.
“Will the Prime Minister commit today to halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia that have been used to prosecute this war in Yemen with the humanitarian devastation that has resulted from that?”
The Prime Minister's official spokeswoman said: "What guides our approach with regard to arms exports is one of the strictest licencing regimes that there is and whether the criteria on that are met."