Skip to main content

UK to resume military-related exports to Saudi Arabia and coalition partners

On 20th June 2019, a judgment of the Court of Appeal concluded that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia were unlawful. The judgement accused ministers of ignoring whether airstrikes that killed civilians in the Yemen civil war broke humanitarian law, making the UK arms-related sales to Saudi Arabia non-compliant with UK trade law.

The principal issue in the Court of Appeal was the UK’s analysis of whether there was a historic pattern of breaches of international humanitarian law (IHL). The UK had not reached findings on whether specific incidents constituted breaches of IHL by Saudi Arabia. Consequently, the Court of Appeal concluded that the decision-making process was irrational and therefore unlawful.

On 7th July, the UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Elizabeth Truss, updated the House of Commons on activities undertaken since the judgement. It was announced that to address the Court of Appeal’s judgment, the UK had “developed a revised methodology in respect of all allegations”, concluding that “there is not a clear risk that the export of arms and military equipment to Saudi Arabia might be used in the commission of a serious violation of IHL”. Consequently, the Government will resume military related trade with Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners. They will begin the process of clearing the backlog of licence applications that has built up since 20th June 2019. As procedure requires, each application must be assessed against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. The UK expects it will take some months to clear the backlog.

Companies applying for authorisations to export to Saudi Arabia and coalition partners will need to undertake robust end-use and end-user controls. This involves understand who the end-users of products, technologies, and services are, and what their end-uses. Companies with approved licences will need strict processes to ensure compliance with authorisation requirements.

To further understand how companies can comply with export controls requirements, please contact our Regulatory Risk team members:

  • Stacey Winters is a Partner in Deloitte’s Risk Advisory Practice
  • Julia Bell is a Director in Deloitte’s Risk Advisory Practice
  • Marios Leonidou is a Senior Consultant in Deloitte’s Risk Advisory Practice

Sign up to the latest updates