Advice on arms sales to Israel unchanged, says UK Deputy Prime Minister

Oliver Dowden said UK would not 'supply arms' if it was unable to legally do so, but that was not presently the case

British Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden at 10 Downing Street, in London. AFP
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The UK's Deputy Prime Minister has said Britain would "not supply arms" to Israel if was unable to do so under international law but added that, at the moment, the legal advice over the issue remained unchanged.

Oliver Dowden's comments to the BBC on Sunday come as pressure mounts on ministers to reveal what legal advice they have received on continuing arms exports to Israel.

Mr Dowden said on the Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg TV programme that the Israelis had made "big mistakes" during the war, but would not be drawn into revealing the content of advice to ministers.

British weapons sales to Israel gained traction in recent days amid the political fallout following the killings of three British aid workers, an attack Israel said was a "grave mistake".

"If it is the case that we can't lawfully, in accordance with the Act, do so, of course we won't supply those arms, but that is precisely the position, for example, even in respect of the United States or any other country around the world," Mr Dowden said.

"We rightly hold ourselves to a high standard, and we hold the countries to whom we export arms to a high standard, and I think that is what you would expect.

"And it contrasts so strongly, our adherence to very high values, with the appalling atrocities that have been committed by terrorist organisations against Israel."

'This must never happen again'

The UK government receives regular updates and legal advice on its arms exports.

The Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch makes decisions on arms export licences, based on advice from the Foreign Secretary, David Cameron.

In an article in the Sunday Times, Lord Cameron said there is "no doubt where the blame lies" for the attack on the aid workers, adding that "this must never happen again".

"Our backing is not unconditional," he said in the article, while supporting Israel's "right to self-defence".

"We expect such a proud and successful democracy to abide by international humanitarian law, even when challenged."

Updated: April 07, 2024, 7:08 PM