The UK is one of the world’s biggest arms exporters. The international arms trade is one of the biggest causes of war. War is one of the biggest causes of death to humans, animals and eco-systems – and of today’s refugee crises on five continents. Astonishingly, some trade unions have been reluctant to confront the arms trade, even though it probably helps to kill trade unionists abroad. Could it be that, with the UK arming Saudi Arabia, Unite members, for example, may be helping to kill members of the Yemeni Confederation of Labor Unions? So, in times of peace, the arms trade may be the worst thing that the UK does.
But the last five years have shown signs of hope. Jeremy Corbyn has criticised the trade and appointed a shadow minister for peace and disarmament. The 2017 election manifesto proposed new restrictions on the trade.
The 2017 TUC congress called for a ‘shadow’ Defence and Diversification Agency, to “turn swords into ploughshares”. Some 60% of people oppose arms sales to countries that are not democracies.
The International Arms Trade Treaty, which regulates the international trade in conventional weapons, entered into force in 2014, with 89 states, including the UK, having ratified it. On 1st May, the government declared a Climate Emergency. Even Tories will be forced to admit that one cause of that emergency is the UK arms trade.
Of course, some will say that, if the UK ends the trade, other countries would rush to pick up the business. But we cannot argue for a worldwide ban while we’re in that business ourselves.
Some trade unions fear the loss of jobs. So the question becomes: how to cut the trade without job losses? The answer lies in two words: go green.
Job losses can be prevented by retraining in, and government support for, other areas of engineering, such as investing in wave technology, heat pumps, environmental satellites, more public transport, windmills and wind farms, solar power and other socially useful projects. There should also be support for career changes and inducements to early retirement.
Islington North passed an anti-arms trade motion in 2018 almost unanimously. Unfortunately, when the constituency selected a motion to go to conference, the motion was not chosen. So we need to more CLPs to pass it and send it to conference to make progress.
For a copy of a motion enshrining these principles, email firstname.lastname@example.org