Military and certain dual-use goods (ie items not specifically designed for military purposes but that could be used as such) need an export or trade licence to leave the UK. The licencing process is managed by the Export Control Organisation (ECO).
The UK Military List
The UK Military List details all licensed military items. You can use it to check if your goods need a licence. You should also consult the Consolidated UK Export Control Lists, which incorporate this Military List and the UK and EU Dual-Use Lists.
Dual-Use and End-Use goods
Items that haven't been specifically designed for a military purpose but that could be used for such a purpose because of the high specification are classed as 'dual-use' and may require a licence.
Any goods involved in handling, operation, maintenance, storage, detection, identification or the spread of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons also need a licence, as do goods that are not included in the Strategic Export Control List, but that may be used in a weapons-of-mass-destruction context.
Some exports not on the Military List may need an export licence under the Military End-Use Control. This applies if the exporter has been informed that the goods are to be used for a military purpose in a country under an arms embargo, or informed that they're to be used for illegal weapons.
You need to be aware of both UK controls and international trade sanctions or arms embargoes against particular countries or regions. See current arms embargoes and other restrictions.
As a result of the Export Control Act, the trading of military goods abroad is also a licensable activity. The ECO also licenses the trafficking and brokering of military goods between destinations. This involves transactions between two overseas countries where the deal is brokered or conducted in the UK.
Trade Controls apply to all activities undertaken from within the UK and in certain circumstances to activities undertaken by UK persons whilst overseas. The legislation also controls activities of the transport sector concerning transport of military items.
Trade Controls also apply to the brokering - which can include warehousing and shipping - of dual-use goods that could be used in connection with Weapons of Mass Destruction. Whistle-blowing measures also apply.
Read more about trade controls (trafficking and brokering)
Ministry of Defence (MOD) F680 Clearance
The MOD F680 is a pre-clearance check that is required if an exporter plans to sell, demonstrate or promote or export certain equipment, goods or classified information for export promotion purposes. The F680 process gives an indication but not a guarantee that an export licence will subsequently be issued. You must obtain F680 clearance in order to use certain licences.
Traders must allow enough time to apply and receive a licence before exporting goods. While the process can sometimes be completed in a few weeks, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will need longer to issue some licences.
Types of export licence
There are currently seven types of licence issued by ECO. The most common licences are:
- Open General Export Licence (OGEL) - these licences are specifically designed to ease the licensing burden on companies and should be considered if possible, if all terms and conditions can be met. They permit the export of specified controlled goods that have been assessed as lower strategic risk and to lower risk destinations. There are currently over 40 different types of OGELs available which licence exports of either military or dual-use goods. There is also a European Union equivalent of an OGEL called the Community General Export Authorisation (CGEA) which licenses certain dual-use goods. Exporters need to register for most OGELs via the ECO's SPIRE export licensing database. All OGEL holders should expect periodic ECO Compliance Audits. While OGELs stay in force until they're revoked, their provisions can vary at any time, so exporters must stay up to date with changes via the ECO's Notices to Exporters email alert service.
- Standard Individual Export Licence (SIEL) - allows export of a specific quantity of a certain good to a named importer. If you are not permitted to use an OGEL due to the nature of the goods or export destination (for instance, because you intend to export a controlled item to a sanctioned country), then you need to apply for an SIEL
- Open Individual Export Licence (OIEL) - issued for a specific exporter and allows different goods to be sent to various destinations. This is a concessionary licence. You need a track record with ECO before being issued with an OIEL.
Read more about types of export licence.
Before either registering for an OGEL or when applying for a SIEL, OIEL or other type of export licence, you should be careful to avoid errors in your application, since this could cause delays. For instance you should:
- understand what is licensable
- understand how to correctly rate your goods (ie check the goods entry in the UK Strategic Export Control List)
- ensure that you fully understand the requirements, terms and conditions of all licences
Export licence applications can be made via SPIRE, which is the ECO's electronic system for processing licence applications.