UK says 2018 was ‘best year ever’ for its arms exports

Britain won defence orders worth 14 billion pounds in 2018, the highest since records began in 1983.

Britain arms export
The official report comes amid mounting controversy over Britain's arms sales to Saudi-led forces in Yemen [AP]

The United Kingdom has reported securing record defence orders in 2018, making it the “best year ever” for British arms exports.

The UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT), in a report published on Tuesday, said the country won defence orders worth 14 billion pounds ($17bn) in 2018, up from nine billion pounds ($11bn) in 2017 and the highest since 1983. 

The report attributed the rise to the sale of Typhoon jets to Qatar and F-35-related components to the United States. The deal to sell 24 Typhoons to Qatar, finalised in September, was worth five billion pounds ($6bn). 

The record orders in 2018 made the UK the largest arms exporter in the world after the US.

Washington’s share of the global defence market was 40 percent, while London’s stood at 19.

Russia, the world’s third-largest arms exporter, has 14 percent market share, while fourth-placed France has nine percent, the report said. 

Countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), accounted for nearly 80 percent of British defence exports last year.

The report comes amid mounting controversy over the UK’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, one of Britain’s biggest arms purchasers and the leading weapons importer in the world. 

In June, the UK court of appeal concluded the British government broke the law by allowing arms sales to Riyadh because the weapons may have been used in a devastating war in Yemen

The Saudi-UAE-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 to restore the internationally-recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was swept from power by the Houthi rebels the previous year. 

The United Nations has described the five-year conflict as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, as it has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed the impoverished country to the brink of famine

The court ruling does not halt Britain’s arms exports to Saudi Arabia, but it means the granting of new licenses will be suspended.

Earlier this month, the British government asked the country’s Supreme Court to overturn that judgement. 

Source: Al Jazeera