ICAN UK campaigners blockade London Arms Fair

September 14, 2015

ICAN UK was proud to join hundreds of protesters from Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) and other groups which form the Stop the Arms Fair coalition to help block both entrances to the DSEI London arms fair at the weekend. Research shows that well-known British financial institutions such as Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group and RBS are investing heavily in companies that produce nuclear weapons and that are sponsoring the DSEI arms fair. Our messages were clear: Don’t Bank on the Bomb and Ban Nuclear Weapons Now!

The arms fair is sponsored by nuclear weapons producers: DSEI (Defence & Security Equipment International) is the world’s largest arms fair. ‘Platinum sponsors’ of DSEI 2015 are BAE Systems and General Dynamics. BAE Systems is involved in the US and UK Trident II (D5) strategic nuclear weapons system programmes and US Intercontinental Ballistic Missile systems. General Dynamics provides a range of engineering, development, and production activities to support both US and UK Trident II Strategic Weapons Systems.

British investment in nuclear weapons producers: ‘Don’t Bank on the Bomb’ research by Netherlands-based PAX, an ICAN partner, lays bare the financing of the nuclear weapons industry and shows that British financial institutions are profiting from the manufacture of weapons of mass destruction.

From 1 January 2011 – 31 august 2014, 35 UK financial institutions made an estimated  £18,126million (USD $ 27,861million) available to nuclear weapons producing companies. For the two ‘platinum sponsors’ of the 2015 DSEI arms fair, BAE Systems and General Dynamics, the total amounts made available in loans and shareholdings from UK financial institutions for the same period are £3367.46million (BAE Systems) and £1724.72million (General Dynamics).

The UK financial institutions making funds available include well-known brands such as:

Barclays (£623.92m to BAE; £126.87m to General Dynamics),

Lloyds  Banking Group (£154.19m to BAE;  £126.87m to General Dynamics),

and RBS (£154.19m to BAE; £419.63m to General Dynamics).

Policies against investment? Some financial institutions operating in the UK already have policies in place that limit or prohibit any investments in nuclear weapons producing companies. The Co-operative Bank’s current investment policy excludes investment in nuclear weapons producers, and Triodos Bank excludes all companies involved in arms-related activities.

Agreed in Parliament? The length of the contracts for nuclear weapons producers, some of which were agreed in 2012 but won’t be delivered until 2018, raises concerns about the adherence of the government to the ‘main gate’ decision to renew Trident due to take place in 2016. The length of the contracts suggest that Trident renewal may already have been agreed, pre-empting a decision by Parliament.

Independent UK system? Because the US leases all nuclear weapons technology to the UK, the two systems are intertwined and it is not possible to separate out investment that is only in the UK nuclear weapons programme. This in itself has implications for claims about the independence of UK Trident from the US.

Making nuclear weapons illegal: Nuclear weapons are the only WMD not explicitly prohibited by international treaty. A new treaty banning nuclear weapons, which could be negotiated as early as 2016, will have a significant impact on countries like the UK. Even if the UK doesn’t initially participate in such a treaty, investments such as those detailed in ‘Don’t Bank on the Bomb’ can become illegal under international law. The stigma attached to investing in an illegal weapon mean that it will become increasingly difficult to finance the production of nuclear weapons.

The humanitarian initiative on nuclear weapons: There has been a fundamental shift in the international discourse on nuclear disarmament over the past five years, based on the evidence of the humanitarian impacts from any nuclear weapon detonation and an acknowledgement of the increasing risk of use of nuclear weapons. 115 countries have signed a historic ‘humanitarian pledge’ to prohibit and eliminate these WMDs, signalling that a majority of the world’s governments are ready to move forward with the prohibition of nuclear weapons, even if nuclear weapon states such as the UK are not ready to participate.

Quote from Susi Snyder, co-author of the ‘Don’t Bank on the Bomb’: “No bank, pension fund or insurance company should have financial relations with companies involved in weapons of mass destruction. There are better ways to make a profit instead of financing the production of inhumane and indiscriminate weapons that governments are obliged to disarm. Financial institutions like the Co-operative Bank in the UK show that it is possible to have policies that stigmatize these weapons, and exclude them from investments.”

‘Don’t Bank on the Bomb’ 2015 global report will be launched in the UK in November.

Links: Don’t Bank on the Bomb - PAX - Stop the Arms Fair

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