Solidarity campaigners have forced a judicial review of the British government’s post-Brexit trade deal with Morocco.
That was the decision of the high court in London on 28 June, after Western Sahara Campaign UK made an application in March against both the department for international trade and the treasury.
The high court judgement says: ‘If the claimant is correct, the defendants are acting unlawfully by according preferential tariff treatment to goods originating in Western Sahara and in doing so are facilitating the exploitation of the resources of that territory contrary to international law.’
Morocco invaded Western Sahara in 1975 and has been illegally occupying the territory ever since – and illegally exporting Sahrawi resources.
In recent years, Morocco hasn’t just had legal problems to do with Western Sahara, it’s also seen a drop in the number of countries willing to import Sahrawi conflict phosphate.
Solidarity activists took action in New Zealand at the end of May to try to add NZ to that list.
Around 40 members of Western Sahara Solidarity Aotearoa blockaded the headquarters of Ballance Agri-nutrients on the outskirts of Tauranga, about 130 miles from Auckland.
Ballance, a major fertiliser company, imports conflict phosphate taken illegally from Western Sahara by Morocco. (See PN 2634 – 2635 for a previous NZ phosphate blockade.)
Indigenous people say that Ballance facilities are also poisoning the water and the air near its headquarters.
Activists chained themselves to the main gate and sat in tripods.
Ballance contractors used their vehicles to knock protesters to the ground.
Eventually, the CEO of Ballance, Mark Wynne, agreed to meet with the ambassador of Western Sahara in return for an end to the blockade.
Britain has another connection to Western Sahara. It turns out that, in 2020, Britain was the top exporter of gas to the territory.
Five of the 11 shipments of liquified butane gas that came into Laayoune port in Western Sahara in 2020 came from the UK, from Immingham in Lincolnshire and Teesside.
Western Sahara Resource Watch says that the gas is ‘fuelling the occupation’, as it is used by Morocco ‘to uphold critical infrastructure and industries for its illegal occupation’ of Western Sahara.
Following protests in their home countries, gas exporters in Norway and Austria announced in April and May that they would not be exporting to Western Sahara again.
Another UK connection: British troops also reportedly took part in African Lion 21, a mainly US – Morocco military exercise (partly in Western Sahara) in mid-June.