On Tuesday, October 5, anti-war groups in Hampshire in the UK staged a protest at the Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre which is hosting the Defence Procurement Research Technology and Exportability (DPRTE 2021) event. The protest was organized by Greater Rushmoor Action For Peace, Peace Pledge Union, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), Fellowship of Reconciliation, and other organizations. The protesters denounced the conduct of DPRTE 2021, which is the leading defense procurement and supply chain event in the UK. They also protested the UK’s decision to join a new trilateral security alliance, AUKUS (Australia, UK, and US), last month.
On September 15, UK prime minister Boris Johnson, US president Joe Biden and Australian prime minister Scott Morrison announced the formation of AUKUS, along with the decision to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, with the objective of establishing “peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific in the long run.” The UK Submarine Delivery Agency is among the “event partners” of the arms fair in Farnborough. The US and the Australian defense departments are also represented at the arms fair. Progressive groups across the world have raised serious concerns about the formation of AUKUS, which is being seen as a strategy by the US and its allies to counter China’s rise in world politics and claims in the South China Sea.
Regarding the protest, Symon Hill from the Peace Pledge Union said, “COVID-19 has been a deadly reminder that bombs and bullets cannot keep us safe from the most serious threats we face – pandemics, poverty and climate chaos. Boris Johnson’s military deal with the US and Australia will stir up military tension while doing nothing to make anyone any safer. Even while ministers are snatching away £20 ( USD 27.16) a week from people on Universal Credit, they have found £5bn (USD 6.79 bn) for a new Digital Warfare Centre. People are traveling to Farnborough from around the UK to speak out against militarism and to call for an urgent change of priorities.”
The Peace Pledge Union also said that the AUKUS deal is one of several militaristic policies announced by Johnson’s government over the last year. In March, Johnson raised the limit on the UK government’s nuclear warheads by 44% and announced the largest percentage increase in UK military spending since the 1950s.
The DPRTE Arms Fair at Farnborough is reportedly the second of four arms fairs scheduled within the span of just two months in the UK. Earlier, on September 14, groups including the Young Communist League (YCL-Britain), CAAT and Stop The Arms Fair, had organized protests at the opening of the the Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair at the Exhibition Centre London (ExCeL). Over the years, protests by peace groups have forced the organizers to shift the venue of the DPRTE fair from the cities of Bristol, Cardiff and Birmingham.