What are Export Controls?
Export controls generally regulate the cross-border transfer or disclosure of sensitive physical goods, and associated software, and technology.
- “Transfer” includes physical exports, electronic transfers (via email, file sharing, virtual meetings, accessing technology on a UK server from abroad etc.), and transfers by any other means including verbal communication and physical inspection.
- “Technology” includes academic and scientific research, teaching, collaboration, know-how and other forms of knowledge transfer, and may be subject to export control.
- Not all technology is subject to export control: exemptions are available for technology that is in the public domain and for basic scientific research, amongst others. These exemptions are subject to detailed conditions that must be assessed on a case by case basis, prior to exchanging technology.
In the UK, export controls are implemented by Act of Parliament. Currently the primary regulation is The Export Control Order 2008. The regulations are administered by the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU), an executive branch of the Department for International Trade, and are enforced by HM Revenue and Customs.
There are very heavy civil and criminal penalties for egregious violations of the regulations including unlimited fines and up to 10 years imprisonment. “Egregious” would include exporting in the knowledge that a licence was required, and not available, smuggling, providing false particulars in a licence application, or similar.
Many other countries have an effective and active export control regime which may be complementary between international allies but are jurisdictionally and procedurally different.
How do Export Controls work?
The UK Strategic Export Control Lists are incorporated by reference into the Export Control Order 2008. The lists designate goods, software and technology that are subject to export control. If an individual’s software or technology, academic research or teaching can be identified to that list then the exporter is obliged to obtain an export licence prior to the activity taking place.
Why are Export Controls needed?
UK export controls have been in place in since the First World War. In the first instance, the regulations require government authorisation for international transactions that may affect national security, for example the sale of weapons systems.
The purpose of UK export controls are the:
- protection of national security
- prevention of proliferation and terrorism
- advancement of foreign policy objectives
- compliance with international agreements
- prohibition of trade with regimes that threaten human rights, and countries that are engaged in conflict or internal repression
Other governments apply similar policies, but often in quite different ways, for example the United States’ extraterritorial regulations. It is King’s policy to comply with these regulations.