Campaigners for the Leave side of the European Union (EU) referendum have criticised the “extraordinarily careless attitude” behind the European Parliament’s support for an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.
Yesterday the European Parliament called on the EU to impose an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia, saying Britain, France and other EU governments should not be selling weapons to the Middle-Eastern petrostate which stands accused of targeting civilians in its fight against Houthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen.
Brexit campaigners Leave.EU say the overwhelming 359 to 212 vote by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) urging an EU-wide end to weapons sales risks starting a “damaging trade war”, reports The Independent, putting billions of pounds of British defence industry contracts in jeopardy. Since Prime Minister David Cameron took office in 2010 UK licences granted for military equipment to the Saudi Arabia have reportedly been worth in the region of £6.7 billion, with £2.8 billion alone since the start of the bombing campaign in Yemen.
Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s head of communications, said the MEP behind the motion betrayed “an extraordinarily careless attitude”. Mr. Wigmore explained:
“The MEP who led the vote conceded that the Saudis told him they may cut off relations in retaliation, but brushed it off by saying ‘I hope these are just words’…
“…It’s not that there may not potentially be a case for sanctions, but it seems bizarre for the EU to impose them on Saudi at the same time it has lifted them for Iran, and very shortly after signing a trade agreement with Vietnam, which has a record described as ‘dire in all key areas’ by Human Rights Watch.”
Promoting the case for leaving the EU in the upcoming referendum, Mr. Wigmore tied the European Parliament’s non-binding motion to arguments over a sovereign country’s ability to govern its own trade policy, saying:
“Plainly, we need to take back control of our trade policy and have it set in a consistent way by our own elected institutions. Contracting it out Brussels has held us back from making important deals with our old partners in countries like Australia and India and is embroiling us in fights we might not have chosen for ourselves.”
Mr. Cameron has frequently made the case that the UK’s membership of the EU is important for its security, but on his own terms the threat to the British relationship with Saudi Arabia contradicts that. He previously defended support to the Saudi military operation, arguing that its relationship with the UK was “important for our security”.