The Saturday debate: how important should promoting military exports be for the MoD?

Here’s your starter for ten in our Saturday slot where we throw up an idea or thought for debate…

The Ministry of Defence’s business plan lays down seven priorities for 2010-15, of which the fourth is:

To promote defence exports consistent with export control criteria; as part of a defence diplomacy programme to strengthen British influence and help support British industry and jobs.

Should the MoD have that as a goal? And if it does, should it fourth of the seven? Over to you…

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • @Geoffrey Payne: I think youre reading too much into that. They probably feel it covered by the reference to export controls.
    British defence and British industry have been cosy, incompetent bedfellows for far too long in my opinion. We should be sourcing our equipment on principles of quality and value, not on how much its going to protect the profit margins of those who terminally under deliver.

  • Toby Fenwick 13th Nov '10 - 11:39am

    The reason its there is that the MOD hopes that exports will subsidise UK military procurement – and as we’ve insisted on buying very advanced, British-made weapons, there are very few countries worldwide that have the cash or the strategic requirement for these very expensive toys. And many of them are places we would not like to do business with. As the MOD is broke, flogging high priced weapons abroad – my hazy recollection is that we’re trying to ink a deal with Oman for Typhoon jet fighters – becomes ever more important in attempting to balance the numbers. As such, this policy is one of fiscal necessity rather than one of strategy.

    I don’t think that our arms sales to regimes with dubious human rights records is helpful; Saudi is further complicated because of the medium-term risk of an Al Qaeda inspired revolution against the Saudi monarchy. But those countries with a record on using force against their own people, or civilians under occupation (e.g. Sudan, Nigeria, China, Israel) should in my view be debarred from British defence sales.

  • Paul McKeown 13th Nov '10 - 9:03pm

    Such a priority reveals the MoD in its true colours, that of a representative in government for industrial interests. Selling British industry is a function which – if it should exist in government at all – should be located in BIS and/or the FCO. The MoD should have one focus: that of anticipating threats to national security and deterring them as best as possible within budgetary constraints imposed and/or negotiated with the Treasury. A ridiculous policy and indicative of the idiotic thinking that has poisoned British defensive posture for several generations. Shades of military/industrial complex.

  • Darren Reynolds 14th Nov '10 - 11:07am

    What Paul said.

  • Tom Papworth 14th Nov '10 - 11:41am

    No. The government should not be promoting exports in any field. That sort of mercantallist nonsense should have gone out with the Corn Laws.

    As for the arms industry, we’d have a far better equipped military if we bought a lot more stuff off the shelf instead of reinventing the wheel (or rather, the Infantry Fighting Vehicle) every time.

    I also largely agree with Geoffrey (Yes, it does happen!), though there is a difference between sellng the Saudi’s fighter jets (not usable in repressing civilians, but handy in defending their borders) and selling them electric shock battons (which have only one purpose and I’m genuinely surprised that the UK even makes!).

  • .
    Toby Fenwick wrote: “But those countries with a record on using force against their own people, or civilians under occupation (e.g. Sudan, Nigeria, China, Israel ……………..Britain, USA.

  • We should not be exporting arms full stop!

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