THE WEEK IN POLITICS: Weapons woes

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ARMS CONCERNS: Spain’s King Felipe with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman CREDIT: Spanish Royal Household

THE death of reporter Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul earlier this month has had global repercussions, with arms sales to Saudi Arabia once again called into question.

Many have blamed the Saudi regime and have called for weapons shipments to end. The Saudis have denied any involvement and have vowed to investigate the death.

Germany has already halted arms shipments to Riyadh this week and Canada is considering doing the same.

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Politicians in Spain have wrestled with the issue several times this yeardue to Riyadh’s intervention in the Yemen Civil War decried by human rights groups and others including Khashoggi.

The weapons sales are highly lucrative for Spain. Madrid sold the third-largest amount of arms to the Saudis out of all other suppliers from 2012 to 2016.

The country’s Navatia shipyard is also set to build five warships for the Saudis as part of a €1.8 billion contract.A trade union representing workers there is concerned that a diplomatic spat could risk thousands of jobs.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s ruling left-leaning PartidoSocialista (PSOE) is now in a difficult position.

Pablo Echenique, of the leftist Podemos party, has called on the government to halt the sale of weapons to the Saudis.

The PSOE depends on the wider UnidosPodemos leftist coalition’s 67 members of parliament to pass legislation, including the budget. But the party cannot afford to be seen putting thousands of workers out of a job if they cancel the Navatia deal and others.

Sanchez has so far erred on the side of keeping deals with the Saudis in place. In the wake of Khashoggi’s death, he may have to decide whether he wants to save those contracts or his delicate parliamentary alliance.

Call to vote

BRITAIN’S ambassador to Spain has said a final vote on the country’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU) is unlikely.

His comments come as an estimated 700,000 people marched through London to call for a ‘People’s Vote’, or second referendum on Brexit.

Brexit remains as divisive as ever but recent polls suggest public opinion in Britain is turning away from leaving the EU. A total of 47 per cent of people surveyed in a recent YouGov poll said Britain took the wrong decision when it voted to leave the bloc in 2016. Around 40 per cent said it was right.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has already ruled out a second vote. If another ballot were to take place it would be unlikely to be put forward by Conservative MPs.

Polling data suggests such a vote would likely be on a knife edge, making it unlikely that a second vote would settle matters once and for all.

HardlineBrexiteers would brand the move as evidence of an establishment conspiracy to upend the 2016 referendum result.

Remain supporters argue voters should be allowed a final say on what is arguably the biggest change in Britain’s constitutional arrangements since it joined the EU’s forerunner the EC in 1972.

Unless there are major personnel changes in Westminster between now and next March Ambassador Manley looks set to be proved right.

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