UK government accused of covering up legal advice saying Israel is breaking international law

42 MPs have signed an Early Days Motion calling for the government to immediately publish the legal advice findings


The UK government has failed to make public legal advice that Israel “has broken humanitarian law”, a senior Tory MP has claimed, which would require the UK to cease all arms sales to Israel. 

In a leaked recording at a Tory fundraiser, Conservative chair of the foreign affairs select committee, Alicia Kearns, said she remained “convinced” that the government has completed its updated assessment on whether Israel has breached international law, but has not announced the findings. 

If the government has received advice from its own lawyers that Israel has breached international law, legal experts have said the UK must cease all arms sales to Israel immediately or risk putting the UK in breach of international law itself, as the country would be seen aiding and abetting war crimes. 

Kearns told the gathering in London: “The Foreign Office has received official legal advice that Israel has broken international humanitarian law but the government has not announced it.

“They have not said it, they haven’t stopped arms exports. They have done a few very small sanctions on Israeli settlers and everyone internationally is agreed that settlers are illegal, that they shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing, and the ways in which they have continued and the money that’s been put in.”

42 MPs from eight parties have signed an Early Day Motion started by Richard Burgon MP calling on the government to immediately publish the legal advice it has received. 

Responding to the leaked comments, John McDonnell MP said: “Last week in Commons I pressed Andrew Mitchell, Foreign Office minister to publish government’s legal advice on the grounds that the supply of arms to Israel makes ministers & MPs, supporting this, complicit in its war crimes. Now we know why he refused.”

According to defence secretary Grant Shapps, British defence exports to Israel totalled £42 million in 2022. 

First Minster of Scotland Humza Yousaf said: “Continuing arms sales to Israel is unjustified & now possibly illegal. UK Government must now, finally, do the right thing.

“The UK Government should also intervene in the ICJ case ruling on genocide in Gaza and provide their legal advice to the Court.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We keep advice on Israel’s adherence to international humanitarian law under review and ministers act in accordance with that advice, for example when considering export licences.

“The content of the Government’s advice is confidential.”

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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