Boris Johnson dismisses concern for Yemen as UK cuts aid

Boris Johnson dismisses concern for Yemen as UK cuts aid
The British premier said in his weekly session of Prime Minister's Questions that the crisis in Yemen was not among the 'issues of the hour'.
3 min read
03 March, 2021
Opposition MPs have called Johnson 'disgusting' and 'morally bankrupt' [Getty]
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been labeled "morally bankrupt" by opposition lawmakers after he dismissed concerns about UK cuts in aid to Yemen.

The British premier shrugged off a series of questions about the war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen posed by Labour Party leader Keir Starmer on Wednesday.

The UK announced this week it would make significant cuts in humanitarian aid to Yemen, where around 24 million are reliant on aid and some 10 million at the brink of famine.

London will provide £87 million ($122 million) in aid to the country this year, a drop from the £164 million ($229 million) pledged last year.

Starmer questioned Johnson over the continued sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, which has a leading role in the war in Yemen.

Calls by rights groups and campaigners for the UK to stop exporting arms to Riyadh have reemerged after the US last month pledged to end the sales.

"Does the Prime Minister agree with President Biden that the sale of arms that could be used in the war in Yemen should be suspended?" the Labour leader asked.

Prime Minister Johnson responded that the UK has "scrupulously" followed laws surrounding arms sales.

Under a 2019 court order, the UK banned the sale of arms that could be used in Yemen but nearly $2 billion in bombs, missiles and other military equipment were sold to Riyadh between July and September last year after the ban was lifted.

"The truth is the UK is increasingly isolated in selling arms to Saudi Arabia," Starmer said on Wednesday.

Another question by the opposition leader on the continued arms sales was met with derision from Johnson, who told the House of Commons the country should be "proud" of the aid it has sent to Yemen in recent years.

"[Starmer] can't even address a question on the issues of the hour, he could have asked anything about the coronavirus pandemic," continued Johnson.

"Instead he's concentrated his questions entirely to the interests of the people of Yemen and we're doing everything we can to support the people of Yemen given the constraints we face," the prime minister said.

Opposition lawmakers have slammed the prime minister over his "absolutely disgusting" comments.

"In what possible alternative universe could it be right for PM to claim British people 'should be very very proud' of what UK government is doing in Yemen?" tweeted Caroline Lucas, former leader of the Green Party.

"What a shameful morally bankrupt Government. The British people deserve better than this," Lucas wrote.

Labour MP Emma Lewell Buck added: "Once again this government proves their moral bankruptcy and what they really value. Sickeningly it's always money over everything else, in this instance over life."

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