DEFENCE Secretary Michael Fallon has been criticised for saying Brexit should spur Britain’s arms industry to become the biggest in the world.

Fallon made the comments to weapons manufacturers at the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair in London.

He said: “As we look to life post-Brexit and spread our wings further across the world it is high time that we do more to compete for a bigger share of this international export market.

READ MORE: EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker warns Britain will regret leaving EU

“It is time now to build exportability into our thinking from the off, aligning that with requirements of our international partners, enabling a more open architecture to our platforms that can ‘plug and play’ with different bits of capability.”

Britain’s arms trade is worth a reported £6 billion, but Fallon said that sum could be increased.

He said: “You have to go back to the 1970s to remember when we last built frigates for another country. We need to change that. We need to re-model the way in which we approach shipbuilding in the future.”

There have been protests at the arms fair, with campaigners angry at the Government is allowing the sale of weapons to repressive regimes.

In particular, British-made weapons are reportedly being used by Saudi Arabian government forces in the brutal civil war in Yemen. Saudi forces are engaged in fighting Iranian-where there have been many civilian casualties.

International Development Secretary Liam Fox has already defended the sales to the Saudis, warning that if the UK wasn’t selling to them, the regime would be able to obtain the equipment from elsewhere, leading to an eruption of unregulated sales.

Oliver Feeley-Sprague, from Amnesty International expressed concern that Brexit would mean a watering down of the UK’s export controls. He said: “Brexit must not be used by the Government to rewrite the rule book on arms controls or roll back on human rights.

“Michael Fallon’s remarks are the clearest signal yet that when it comes to UK-manufactured weapons, Brexit could mean a watering down of safeguards, more reckless arms sales, and in turn greater civilian suffering around the world.”

Andrew Smith from Campaign Against Arms Trade agreed: “When Michael Fallon talks about the UK ‘spreading its wings’ he means even more arms sales to even more oppressive regimes.

“UK arms are already playing a devastating role in the Saudi-led destruction of Yemen. The arms sales being negotiated today could fuel abuses for decades to come.

“If Fallon really wants the UK to have a positive impact on the world stage then he must push for human rights and democracy, not act as an arms salesman to despots, dictatorships and human rights abusers.”