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Arms fair chased out of the NEC Birmingham by local campaigners

The Defence Procurement, Research, Technology & Exportability (DPRTE) arms fair has been moved from the NEC Birmingham to Farnborough International after a local campaign.

DPRTE is a major event in the arms industry calendar and had been due to take place at the NEC in Birmingham on 28 March.

The fair happens with 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 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.” Organisers say that they decided it was, “more appropriate for DPRTE to be hosted at a more self-contained venue.” The new location in Farnborough also serves a military base.

A spokesperson for the NEC told M&IT: “Since the NEC agreed to host the Defence Procurement, Research, Technology & Exportability 2019, the organiser has requested changes to the setup of the event. Following consultation with the organiser, it has become apparent that it is more appropriate for DPRTE to be hosted at a venue that better meets their requirements, and so the 2019 edition of this event will now take place at an alternative venue.”

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.”

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