Campaigners have welcomed the decision of the Defence Procurement, Research, Technology and Exportability (DPRTE) arms fair organisers to move the event from Birmingham. The arms fair, which was due to take place at the NEC Centre, Birmingham, on 28 March 2019, will now happen at the Farborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre.
DPRTE is a major event in the arms industry calendar. It brings together all parts of the arms industry: connecting small companies with some of the world’s largest arms companies. It could not happen without support from the UK Ministry of Defence and the Department of International Trade, who are listed as event 'partners' but also attend as prospective buyers alongside the US Defence Department. Exhibitors include BAE Systems, which produces many of the fighter jets being used by Saudi-led forces in the ongoing bombardment of Yemen.
The decision follows a campaign by a diverse range of local activists, with the Birmingham Stop the Arms fair group having planned a day of creative actions against the fair. The decision to hold it in Birmingham was only made in November 2018, with the controversial event having originally been scheduled for Cardiff before its cancellation following similar protests and objections from local people.
Campaigners received an email from the event organisers which claimed that the decision was made following consideration of "the impact of all events on all our guests." Organiser say that they decided it was "more appropriate for DPRTE to be hosted at a more self-contained venue." The new location in Farborough also serves a military base.
Hugh Douglas from Birmingham Stop the Arms Fair said: "This move is a response to the people of Birmingham and of Solihull making it clear that the arms industry is not welcome here. The DPRTE was already chased out of Cardiff, and now Birmingham. The government might be willing to ignore the death and destruction caused by the arms industry, but local people are not."
Kat Hobbs of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: "We are very glad that this event has been moved, but the Birmingham NEC should never have agreed to host it in the first place. The NEC should not allow its facilities to be used to support companies that profit from arming and supporting human rights abusing regimes around the world."
* Campaign Against Arms Trade https://www.caat.org.uk/