UAE State visit continues arms sales drive to repressive Gulf regime

26 April 2013

Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has condemned the UK government's arms export drive to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Data recently released shows that in 2012 the UK licensed weaponry worth £26.2 million to the authoritarian UAE despite their lack of human rights and democratic process. The new data comes on the eve of a state visit to the UK by the ruler of the UAE, Sheikh Khalifa, on 30 April-1 May.

The UK government and BAE Systems are currently promoting the sale of 60 Eurofighter Typhoon jets to the UAE, in a sale potentially worth over £3 billion, which would dwarf previous weapons deals. In November 2012 David Cameron visited the UAE and Saudi Arabia to promote the fighter jet. During his visit he joined senior UAE military and political figures inspecting Typhoons at Al Minhad airbase and attended a trade fair in Abu Dhabi, with exhibits by arms giants BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce.

Kaye Stearman from CAAT said:

The eagerness of the UK government to pursue arms sales with authoritarian regimes in the Middle East leads them to ignore human rights abuses. This is especially true of the UAE where criticism of the ruling elite has been muted because of their wealth, power and influence in the region and the UK itself. The UK should not be selling weapons, whether small arms or fighter jets, to a repressive regime which cannot respect the basic human rights of its people.

Arms export data - UK arms exports to the UAE

The UAE has long been a major customer for UK arms exports. The government's arms sales unit, United Kingdom Trade & Investment Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO), designates the UAE as a "priority market" for military and internal security equipment.

In 2012 the UK licensed weaponry worth £26.2 million to the UAE. The main items licensed fell in the categories: "other electronic equipment" - £8.4 million; small arms - £5.8 million; "aircraft, helicopters, drones" - £3.5 million; "armoured vehicles, tanks"- £2.2 million; and "target acquisition, weapons control systems" - £2 million. In addition, there were licences totalling over £1.1 billion for dual use items of "“telecommunications and information security".

In the final quarter of 2012, the UK issued licences covering weaponry worth over £7.7 million. This included £2.1 million for "other electronic equipment", £1.8 million for "armoured vehicles and tanks" and almost £1 million worth of small arms. There were also licences worth over £400 million for dual use items of "telecommunications and information security".

In the five years 2008-2012, the UK licensed arms worth over £157 million to the UAE, with electronic equipment worth £77 million at the top of the list. There were also substantial amounts of other military equipment and services, including £13.6 million of small arms, £10.7 million of "aircraft, helicopters and drones", £8.9 million of armoured vehicles and tanks, £5.3 million for "grenades, bombs, missiles, counter-measures", and £4.2 million for "target acquisition and weapon control systems".

In addition, the UK also licensed over £3 billion worth of "dual use" goods (which can be used in military or civilian purposes), including “information technology” which could be used against dissidents.


For further information contact CAAT at media(at)caat·org·uk or call 020 7281 0297 or 07990 673 232.


  1. The UAE state visit, the first since 1989, will see the royal red carpet rolled out to greet Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his entourage, which will include leading political and military figures. The stated aim of the visit is to consolidate political and military ties between the two countries. During his visit, Sheikh Khalifa will participate in a traditional carriage procession through Windsor to Windsor Castle for a state lunch hosted by the Queen. He will later meet with Prime Minister David Cameron at Downing Street.
  2. The UAE has been criticised for its poor human rights record. A European Parliament resolution in October 2012 condemned the UAE for its "crackdown on human rights defenders and civil society activists". Seven human rights organisations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have expressed concerns about the detention and trial of 94 democracy activists, some of whom are alleged to have been tortured while in custody.
  3. The UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said: "The UAE is committed to further building and strengthening its bilateral relationship with the UK on all levels, with a particular focus on trade, regional and global security and education.".
  4. The royal connection is often used to support arms exports. The visit of Sheikh Khalifa follows the 2010 state visit by The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh to the UAE in 2010. The UK Ambassador to UAE, Dominic Jermey, told the Khaleej Times: I can’t think of anywhere else in the world of a state visit being returned in such a short time, with the Queen’s visit here in 2010 and, if I may say so, a return match by Shaikh Khalifa only two-and-a-half years later... Defence, security, foreign policy and business will be at the heart of the visit, but first and foremost, this is a visit between two royal families, who value each other, so it is about enhancing the relationship between the UAE and UK. In March 2013, Prince Charles visited Oatar, Saudi Arabia and Oman - the latter two are major customers for UK arms.
  5. In a question of 12 November 2012 on the defence industrial partnership agreed during the Prime Minister's visit to the UAE, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond replied: The core aim of the Prime Minister's visit was to further our long standing friendship with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). We are partners across a broad range of areas and are committed to maintaining tolerant, open and outward-looking societies. Both countries have created environments in which investments thrive and have invested significantly in each other's economies. During the visit, we agreed to develop our partnership by deepening our defence ties by: continuing to develop joint plans for the security of the UAE and wider Gulf region; establishing a defence industrial partnership centred on Typhoon and involving close collaboration between leading British and Emirate industrial companies and by growing UAE investment in the UK and UK investment in the UAE in a wide range of sectors including aerospace, communications and service ventures. (Hansard, 13 Novermber, Column 171W)
  6. The UK arms export licensing process is carried out by the Export Control Organisation, based in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. The statistics for the fourth quarter of 2012 were published in the week of 21 April 2013. A more accessible, informative and searchable version of the database can be found on the CAAT website.
  7. Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) works to end the international arms trade. The arms business has a devastating impact on human rights and society and damages economic development. Large-scale military procurement and arms exports only reinforce a militaristic approach to international problems. In 2012, CAAT was awarded a Right Livelihood Award, the “Alternative Nobel Prize” for its “innovative and effective campaigning against the arms trade”.
Page updated 26 April 2013
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