Posts Tagged ‘export licences’

You can’t take on the Taleban with a rolled-up copy of the New Statesman

28/02/2011, 07:00:41 AM

by Michael Dugher

The timing of David Cameron’s trade mission to the Middle East last week, during which he took a large delegation of business figures, many from the defence industries, was awful.  The government’s response to events in Libya and the wider region have been condemned as a complacent shambles. The prime minister, a former marketing man, tried to “rebrand” the trip when he should have known that he needed to remain in the UK to “take charge” and to manage the implications of the growing crisis.

The prime minister should also have had the judgement to know that it was not an appropriate time to be pursuing trade interests with regimes that had begun to attack pro-democracy campaigners in their own countries, and that the priority needed to be the safety and security of British nationals. Douglas Alexander summed it up best:

“I support the promotion of British exports and British goods; that is important to our economic recovery. But I think the last couple of weeks have been a very salutary reminder to David Cameron and to others that foreign policy embraces more than simply trade policy”.

And similarly Ed Miliband wrote in yesterday’s Observer: “Trying to pretend a trade mission for defence manufacturers and other businesses is a ‘democracy tour’ doesn’t cut it”.

But Cameron’s trip also sparked an avalanche of criticism from those, mainly on the left, who remain totally opposed to very existence of the British defence industry. Twitter, in particular, was alive all last week with angry tweeters denouncing the “arms trade” and the “arms salesmen” on board the PM’s plane. The list of major British defence companies who jumped on board the prime minister’s flight included Cobham, Thales UK, QinetiQ and – cue for an especially big boo and an extra large hiss – for that favourite pantomime villain, BAE Systems.  The list also included firms like Rolls Royce, Serco and Amec, all of whom have large defence interests. (more…)

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