British arms sales to Israel face high court challenge

A Palestinian man carries a child killed in the blast outside a UN run school in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, earlier this month. Photograph: Hatem Ali/AP

Leading UK law firm claims government’s failure to suspend existing export licences is illegal

The government faces being dragged into the high court over the sale of military hardware to Israel in an unprecedented legal move that puts the UK’s controversial export policy on a potential collision course with the EU.

Law firm Leigh Day, representing the Campaign Against Arms Trade(CAAT), has written to the business secretary, Vince Cable, claiming that the failure by the British government to suspend existing licences for the export of military components to Israel is unlawful as there is a risk that they may have been used in Gaza. It says that it has been instructed to seek a judicial review of the government’s reluctance to suspend licences unless it agrees to stop the export of the components.

The move puts the UK’s multimillion-pound military export programme in the spotlight when Israel’s actions in Gaza have caused international concern and there is mounting disquiet about the role foreign states are playing in facilitating the conflict, which is now the subject of an uneasy ceasefire.

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