Britain can once again issue new licences to export arms to Saudi Arabia after complying with a court order, The Court of Appeal last year ruled that Britain broke the law by allowing weapons sales to Saudi Arabia that might have been deployed in the war in Yemen. While the court’s decision did not mean Britain had to halt arms exports to Saudi Arabia, it did mean it had to pause the granting of new export licences to sell arms to the kingdom – Britain’s biggest weapons purchaser.
Consequently, the undertaking given to the Court – that Britain would not grant any new licences for the export of arms or military equipment to Saudi Arabia for possible use in Yemen – falls away. The broader commitment that was given to Parliament, relating to licences for Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, also no longer applies. The government will now begin the process of clearing the backlog of licence applications for Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners that has built up since 20 June last year.
Each application will be carefully assessed against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria and a licence would not be granted if to do so would be a breach of the criteria. Exporters should be aware that it may take some months to clear this backlog. There may also continue to be delays in processing new applications until the backlog has been cleared, in accordance with the Judgment of the Court of Appeal of 20 June 2019.