The British defense secretary has praised a notorious missile manufacturer, which is known for weapon sales to Libya’s former assassinated ruler Muammar Gaddafi and the Saudi Kingdom, which has been engaged in a military aggression against Yemen for more than two years.
Michael Fallon said on Friday that the firm, MBDA, is a “role model” for the sort of business that his country will be engaged in once it leaves the European Union.
Addressing staff members of the company's headquarters in the town of Stevenage, he said that MBDA is “strengthening the reputation of this country” with its work and that it is “a role model for the kind of partnerships we’ll be seeking” after leaving the union.
Fallon said MBDA had built “a great reputation manufacturing missiles that keep us safe.” He also announced that the UK has signed a contract with the company to supply his country with three new missile systems.
Anti-arms trade activists accused Fallon of glorifying a company that “profits from war and arms tyrants.”
“If Fallon believes MBDA is a role-model then it says very worrying things about how he sees the UK’s post-Brexit future,” said Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade.
The firm had signed a contract in 2007 to sell £200 million worth of missiles and military communications equipment to Gaddafi. The dictator, who was accused of bombing his own people during an uprising in 2011, eventually was ousted and killed in October that year.
The arms manufacturer has also been providing Saudi Arabia with missiles, with which the kingdom bombs schools, hospitals and food factories, according to reports.
The Saudi aggression has so far claimed the lives of at least 12,000 people. The United Nations estimated that one third of Yemen’s 24 million people are at risk of starvation.
Fallon also defended Britain’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia and reaffirmed that the UK government supports more arms sales to Riyadh.
“Saudi Arabia has the right to defend itself,” he added.
Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs spokesperson Tom Brake also accused Fallon of “turning the UK into the arms dealer of choice for the world's most repressive regimes”.
The UK is the second biggest arms exporter in the world, according to UK Trade and Investment.
It has supplied weapons to 22 of the 30 countries on its own human rights watchlist since 2010, The Independent reported last year.