UK Export Control: All you need to know

uk export control

The UK now has its own export control regime, which governs the flow of dual-use and other sensitive goods out of the country. The export control system is still evolving. Companies must keep up with the latest legislation. Otherwise, they may face legal and financial consequences if they do not respect the law.

The UK has a well-developed and consistent export control system based on EU and national regulations. We must comply with Government legislation and guidelines governing the transfer of certain products (physical and intangible) from the UK in order to protect ourselves and the work we perform, as well as to mitigate any concerns to national security.

What are UK Export Controls?

Export controls in the UK limit the export of sensitive goods, software, and technology (know-how and other information) to other countries. Physical exports, electronic transfers (through email, file sharing, virtual meetings, and other methods), and transfers by any other means are all included (verbal communication). Academic research and teaching are subject to export control legislation in the same manner that trade and commerce.

A licence might be required before any transfer if an export is restricted by one or more laws. Academics and researchers are not automatically exempt. Failure to get an appropriate licence to export regulated goods is a criminal offence.

The Code of Practice aims to ensure the compliance of the law controlling strategic export restrictions.

How do UK Export Controls work?

The UK Strategic Export Control Lists identify items, software, and technology subject to export controls, and concerns that the recipient would use the items for military or WMD purposes or human rights violations are reasons for controlling goods.

Any transfer or disclosure that is subject to one or more applicable export controls may require the acquisition of an export licence. The Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU), Department of International Trade (DIT), handles licence applications and inquiries.

When organising any research or teaching activity involving international participants, it’s critical to consider whether you’ll need an export licence as soon as possible (students, collaborators, funders, etc.).

The UK Control Lists contain items that require a licence to export.

Why need to control the export?

Depending on the type and destination of the intended export, governments aim to control the export of products for several reasons. The Export Control Joint Unit is responsible for exporting strategic items and technologies (ECJU). Exports are regulated for many reasons, including:

Which authority issues an export licence?

The Export Control Joint Unit is responsible for issuing and managing export licences. They can also refer to ‘Technology’ that deals with the operation and manufacture of controlled goods (for example, plans and operating manuals). Digital transmission also comes under UK Export control.

Types of licences

The transaction determines the type of licence required. They have three main categories:

UK Trade Sanctions

The UK uses sanctions for a variety of reasons, including to support the foreign policy and national security goals, as well as to maintain international peace and security and prevent terrorism. Arms embargoes, trade sanctions, and other trade restrictions are examples of sanctions measures.

The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) oversees the UK’s comprehensive sanctions policy. The Department of International Trade (DIT) implements trade sanctions, other trade restrictions, and licensing trade sanctions.

Those proposing to sell, supply, transfer, export, or import sanctioned items, including related assistance and services, must apply to DIT for a licence.

Dual-use items

Dual-purpose goods and technologies are those that are exported for civilian use but can also be used for military purposes. All products that could be used to make nuclear weapons or non-explosive uses are considered dual-use items.

Examples of dual-used items

The dual-use list includes the following sectors:

export activities

What goods are included in UK Export Control Lists?

The Control Lists contain a list of products that require a licence. The Consolidated List comprises seven separate lists found in several international treaties. The UK Military List and the EU Dual-Use List are the two primary components of the Consolidated List.

Before applying for a licence, you will need to review the relevant list and identify the appropriate ‘rating’ or classification of your goods. The UK Strategic Export Control Lists are the first resource to see if your goods are subject to export restrictions and require a licence. Any of the products listed or “rated” on this page need a licence.

What goods are controlled under UK export controls?

Physical products and the transfer of software, data, information, or know-how with a military application are subject to export regulations. The main areas of concern are military technology that can be used to create nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons or their delivery systems. Physical or electronic transfer is possible. Distribution takes place from the UK to a location outside of the UK.

Control can be divided into two categories:

1. Military relics

This category includes goods with a specific military function that will be exported outside of the UK. The UK Consolidated List continues to include the restricted items, including military items. If your item is on this list, you must obtain an export licence before exporting it. You may require a licence if it isn’t on the list.

Thermal imaging equipment, target acquisition, tracking systems, phased-array radar antennae, and weapon-locating systems are only a few examples from the military list.

2. Dual-use Items

This category includes goods that are exported outside of the EU that have both both civilian and military uses. The UK Consolidated List includes dual-use items. If your item is on this list, you must first obtain an export licence before transferring it. Obtaining a licence might be necessary if it’s not on the list.

If your dual-use item is classified in Annex IV of the control list, you must get an export licence before transferring it within the EU.

Dual-use parts and materials for nuclear reactors;
chemicals (e.g., precursors for toxic chemical agents);
microorganisms and toxins;
navigation and avionics (e.g., continuous output accelerometers);
unmanned aerial vehicles and associated technology are some examples of dual-use items.

Export Controls Legislations

The Export Control Act of 2002 is the most important legislation to be aware of.
There are two orders under this legislation:

1. the Export Control Order of 2008
2. the Export Control Order of 2006 for Radioactive Sources

The Export Control Order of 2008 regulates the following:

Violations of export control laws

You may realise as an exporter that you have exported goods or transferred controlled technology without the necessary export licence. During a compliance audit, an Export Control Joint Unit compliance inspector may notice an issue.

If this occurs, it’s critical to notify the irregularity to HMRC (also known as voluntary disclosure) as soon as possible, as they’re in charge of enforcing strategic export rules.

Consequences of non-compliance with the export control laws

When it comes to export, companies frequently overlook export control and sanctions compliance. However, the consequences could be severe, if you make a mistake and export without the proper export licence. The sanctions in the UK are exceptionally harsh: unlimited fines and up to ten years in prison.

The potential impact on your business regarding reputational damage, contractual penalties, and logistical issues is also substantial. As a result, companies must be aware of their export control and sanctions duties on a national and international level.


How can I determine if an item is on the UK consolidated list?

The UK Consolidated List includes the controlled technologies and products that require an export license. The seven lists included in various international laws make up the UK Consolidated List.

How long does the licensing process take?

You must apply for an export licence if you export or transfer any regulated goods. According to the ECJU, the majority of licence applications can take 20 working days in processing. Complex applications involving sensitive materials, areas, or entities, on the other hand, may take far longer (up to several months).

What are the penalties of failing to obtain a licence?

Exporters of regulated technology must be aware of their responsibilities. The new Guidance is based on UK legislation and includes civil and criminal sanctions. In the UK, there is a system in place that provides fines for violations. In general, any breach of UK export control is a criminal offence. Both criminal offences are exporting regulated goods without a licence or failing to comply with licence terms.