Licensed to kill: The United Kingdom's arms export licensing process


  • Anna Stavrianakis



The article addresses the U.K. government's arms export licensing process to try to account for the discrepancy between its rhetoric of responsibility and practice of ongoing controversial exports. It describes the government's licensing process and demonstrate how this process fails to prevent exports to states engaged in internal repression, human rights violations, or regional stability. It then sets out six reasons for this failure: The vague wording of arms export guidelines; the framing of arms export policy; the limited use (from a control perspective) of a case-by-case approach; the weak role of pro-control departments within government; pre-licensing mechanisms that facilitate exports and a lack of prior parliamentary scrutiny, which means the government's policy can only be examined retrospectively; and the wider context of the relationship between arms companies and the U.K. state. It is concluded that the government's export control guidelines do not restrict the arms trade in any meaningful way but, rather, serve predominantly a legitimating function.


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How to Cite

Stavrianakis, A. (2008). Licensed to kill: The United Kingdom’s arms export licensing process. The Economics of Peace and Security Journal, 3(1).