Guidance

Export controls: military goods, software and technology

Guide to licensing requirements and restrictions for trade control and the export of controlled military goods, software and technology.

Overview

An export licence is needed before the export of controlled military goods, software and technology and items on the UK dual-use list from the United Kingdom to another country. These items are listed in Schedule 2 and 3 to the Export Control Order 2008, as amended.

A trade control licence is needed before engaging in certain activities that involve:

  • the supply or delivery of certain items from one country to another
  • the agreement to supply or deliver certain items from one country to another
  • any activity that will promote the supply or delivery of certain items from one country to another

You can assess your goods, software and technology against the UK Strategic Export Control Lists to determine whether or not they are controlled.

The OGEL and Goods Checker Tools can be used to:

  • help determine if the items are controlled
  • identify the appropriate control entry

You can apply for a licence through SPIRE, the online export licensing system. SPIRE is managed by the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU).

Controlled military items

Controlled military items include physical goods, software and technology (specific technical information and data), specially designed or modified for military use. They are specified in Schedule 2 to the Export Control Order 2008, as amended.

Controlled dual-use items

UK controlled dual-use items are specified in Schedule 3 to the Export Control Order 2008. They are not necessarily specially designed or modified for military use.

Controlled dual-use items include:

  • firearms and ammunition
  • security and paramilitary police equipment
  • riot-control vehicles
  • chemical and biological agents
  • explosives and energetic material
  • explosive detection equipment requiring export authorisation to certain destinations
  • firings sets and detonators
  • certain materials, chemicals and micro-organisms
  • tropospheric scatter communications equipment
  • vessels and aircraft requiring authorisation to certain destinations
  • related technology for controlled goods and certain firearms not otherwise specified in Schedule 2 to the Export Control Order 2008, as amended

You can find the complete list on the UK Strategic Export Control Lists.

When you need an export licence

You must have an export licence if you are exporting items that are on the UK Strategic Export Control Lists and you are in the UK, or a UK residence overseas.

You can apply for a licence through SPIRE.

Trade controls and arranging sales or movements

A trade control licence is required for activities subject to trade controls in the UK or for a ‘UK person’ outside of the UK.

The term ‘UK person’ as used in the Export Control Order 2008, is defined in s.11 of the Export Control Act 2002 as a United Kingdom national, a Scottish partnership or a body incorporated under the law of any part of the United Kingdom. A United Kingdom national is an individual who is: (a) a British citizen, a British Overseas Territories citizen, a British National (Overseas) or a British Overseas citizen; (b) a person who under the British Nationality Act 1981 (c. 61) is a British subject; or (c) a British protected person within the meaning of that Act.

Trade controls apply to specific activities, including brokering, that involve certain controlled goods. The trade control legislation imposes different restrictions to different categories of goods. These are contained in Part 4 of the Export Control Order 2008, as amended.

Goods which are subject to trade controls are specified in category A, category B or category C, of Schedule 1 to the Export Control Order 2008, as amended.

Trade controls do not apply to ML21 or ML22 (software and technology).

A trade control licence is also required for specific activities involving goods subject to trade controls from one third country to another third country that is an embargoed destination.

There are also controls related to brokering of military and other items contained in trade sanctions. Read guidance on sanctions and embargoes.

Goods for which you cannot arrange sales or movement (category A goods)

There is a ban on trade controlled activities relating to category A goods which includes:

  • cluster missions, explosive submunitions and explosive bomblets
  • goods for the execution of human beings
  • torture goods, such as: electric shock batons, electric chairs, drug injection electric-shock belts, leg irons and sting sticks

A full list of category A goods is contained in Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Export Control Order 2008, as amended.

For goods in category A, or where the activity is to an embargoed destination, you can not supply or deliver, agree to supply or deliver or do any activity that will promote the supply or delivery of category A goods.

This includes:

  • arranging, or agreeing to, the transfer, acquisition or disposal of goods
  • general advertising and promotion (for example placing advertisements)
  • arranging or providing freight or transport services
  • finance, financial services, insurance or reinsurance services
  • arranging or negotiating contracts or contract promotion activity

A ‘contract promotion activity’ means any act calculated to promote the arrangement or negotiation of a contract for the acquisition, disposal or movement of goods or any agreement to do such an act.

This applies in cases where you know or have reason to believe that such action or actions will, or even may, result in the removal of those goods from one third country to another third country.

Restrictions on category A goods apply to any company or a person from within the UK (whether or not they are a UK person) or by any UK person operating overseas, whether directly or indirectly.

Goods subject to strict trade controls (category B goods)

There are strict trade controls on activities relating to category B goods.

These controls apply to goods and components including:

  • small arms and light weapons (SALWs) within ML1 and ML2
  • accessories and ammunition for SALWs in ML1 and ML2
  • light weapons within ML4
  • ammunition for light weapons within ML4
  • hand grenades specified in ML4
  • anti-vehicle landmines
  • combat aircraft and attack helicopters within ML10
  • warships within ML9
  • long range missiles (LRMs) with a range over 300km
  • unmanned air vehicles (UAVs)
  • man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) and accessories, ammunition, and specially designed components therefore
  • other missiles and missile launchers
  • battle tanks and armoured vehicles within ML6
  • production equipment specially designed for MANPADS, including field test equipment specially designed for MANPADS and specialised training equipment and simulators for MANPADS

A trade control licence is required to:

  • supply or deliver category B goods
  • agree to supply or deliver category B goods
  • do any activity that will promote the supply or delivery of category B goods

This applies in cases where you know or have reason to believe that such action or actions will, or even may, result in the removal of those goods from one third country to another third country.

This includes:

  • arranging, or agreeing to, the transfer, acquisition or disposal of goods
  • general advertising and promotion (for example placing advertisements)
  • arranging or providing freight or transport services
  • finance, financial services, insurance or reinsurance services
  • arranging or negotiating contracts or contract promotion activity

Restrictions on category B goods apply to any company or a person from within the UK (whether or not they are a UK person) or by any UK person operating overseas, whether directly or indirectly.

A licence is not required for category B goods if your only involvement in the transaction is to provide financing or financial services, insurance or reinsurance service, general advertising or promotion services or a contract promotion activity where a payment is not received.

Controls on category C goods

Trade controls on category C goods includes all other goods in the UK Military List not listed above and certain substances for the purpose of riot control or self-protection and related portable dissemination equipment.

For category C goods, a trade control licence is required to:

  • supply or deliver category C goods
  • agree to supply or deliver category C goods
  • do any activity that will promote the supply or delivery of category C goods

This applies in cases where you know or have reason to believe that such action or actions will, or even may, result in the removal of those goods from one third country to another third country. This includes:

  • arranging, or agreeing to, the transfer, acquisition or disposal of goods
  • general advertising and promotion (for example placing advertisements)
  • arranging or providing freight or transport services
  • finance, financial services, insurance or reinsurance services
  • arranging or negotiating contracts or contract promotion activity

A licence is not required for category C goods if your only involvement in the transaction is to provide one of the following:

  • financing or financial services
  • insurance or reinsurance services
  • general advertising or promotion services
  • contract promotion activity where a payment is not received

Restrictions on category C goods apply to any company or a person from within the UK (whether or not they are a UK person). Controls on category C goods are not fully extra-territorial, they apply to activities of UK persons carried out in the UK only. They do not apply to the activities of UK persons undertaken wholly overseas.

Overlap between sanctions and strategic export controls

The export of and other trade in military goods and technology is controlled under sanctions regulations and the Export Control Order 2008, and so you may need a licence which is valid under both pieces of legislation. This means that all licence applications relating to military goods and technology will need to be considered against the sanctions licensing purposes, and the strategic export licensing criteria. A licence under sanctions regulations is unlikely to be granted if a licence is refused for the same activity under the Export Control Order 2008.

The way this will work in practice is that we will consider an application for a licence which relates to activities that are licensable under both the sanctions regulations and the Export Control Order 2008 as an application under both pieces of legislation. This means that only a single licence application is required.

The application will be considered against the relevant licensing criteria. If a licence is granted it will be valid under both the Export Control Order 2008 and the sanctions regulations.

Trade controls for embargoed destinations

Embargoed destinations are those subject to full-scope EU, OSCE and national arms embargoes. Controls apply to category A, B and C goods traded to embargoed destinations. Article 20 of the Export Control Order 2008, as amended sets out what trade controls apply in respect of embargoed destinations. Article 20 does not apply to destinations with arms embargoes made under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018.

Read guidance on sanctions and embargoes.

Trade control licences

There are 4 open general trade control licences (OGTCLs) available.

If you can not use an OGTCL, you must apply for a Standard Individual Trade Control Licence.

You can apply for a licence through SPIRE.

Transfer of information (technology controls)

You must get an export licence to transfer controlled technology to anyone outside the UK.

Technology includes any information necessary for the development, production or use of goods.

This includes any of the following that are related to military items and software:

  • blueprints
  • diagrams
  • technical and training manuals
  • intangible technology such as emails

Find out how military and dual-use technology is defined for export controls.

You can use the control list classification advisory service to assess goods and technology against the UK strategic export control lists.

Military end-use controls

The military end-use control is a catch-all control in the EU Dual Use Regulation 428/2009. This means that even if the items which you intend to export are not listed on the current UK Military List, you might still require an export licence under this control.

An exporter is usually told by the ECJU that an export licence is required for one of two reasons. Either you are exporting non-controlled items that are, or may be, intended for use with military equipment in an embargoed destination, or you are exporting non-controlled items that may be intended for use as parts of military goods illegally obtained from the UK, irrespective of destination.

If you have any concerns about your end user, you can get advice through SPIRE.

Goods you must not export

You must not export any goods and services if they might be used for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) purposes. This including chemicals, biological agents or technology that might be used in a nuclear weapons facility.

This restriction covers:

  • technical assistance such as assembly, maintenance or repair
  • services and goods

Breaches of export control legislation

As an exporter, you may discover that you have exported goods or transferred controlled technology without an appropriate export licence in place. It is also possible that a compliance inspector from the Export Control Joint Unit will identify an irregularity during a compliance audit.

If this happens, it is very important to report the irregularity to HMRC (sometimes known as ‘voluntary disclosure’) as soon as possible, as they are responsible for the enforcement of strategic export controls. If the irregularity was found on an ECJU compliance audit, the compliance inspector will have informed HMRC and you are strongly advised to do the same.

You must write to HMRC at:

HM Revenue & Customs
Customs Enforcement Policy Team
1st Floor, Customs House Annex, 32 St Mary At Hill
London
EC3R 8DY

During the COVID-19 period, you should email amanda.thompson@hmrc.gov.uk to report a breach of export control legislation.

You should provide:

  • details of the export, including dates
  • any relevant documents, such as export documentation and commercial invoices
  • details of how the breach was discovered, why it occurred and what steps you have put in place to ensure it does not happen again

HMRC will consider the matter and contact you directly, either for more information or to let you know of their decision.

If you wish to confidentially report export control breaches HMRC have a hotline or alternatively you can use an online reporting tool. You will find details of both here.

ECJU contact details

Contact the helpline for general queries about strategic export licensing.

Helpline

Export Control Joint Unit
Department for International Trade
Old Admiralty Building
Admiralty Place
Whitehall
London
SW1A 2DY

Email exportcontrol.help@trade.gov.uk

Telephone 020 7215 4594

Contact for general queries about strategic export licensing.

During the COVID-19 period, you should email amanda.thompson@hmrc.gov.uk to report a breach of export control legislation.

Notices to exporters

Notices to exporters from the ECJU contain important information about:

  • amendments to open general export licences
  • changes to the list of controlled goods
  • updates on legislation and sanctions

Sign up to receive email alerts to notices to exporters.

Training and seminars

ECJU provides a comprehensive programme of scheduled and bespoke seminars on different aspects of UK export controls

Find out more in the export control training bulletin.

Published 6 September 2019
Last updated 31 December 2020 + show all updates
  1. New guidance for UK exporters relating to destinations covered by an arms embargo.

  2. Added email address for use during COVID-19 period.

  3. First published.

  1. Step 1 Check if you need to follow this process

    Follow these steps if you're moving goods permanently from:

    • England, Wales or Scotland (Great Britain) to a country outside the UK
    • Northern Ireland to a country outside the UK and the EU

    What you need to do is different if you are:

    1. Get exporting advice on great.gov.uk
  2. Step 2 Check the rules for exporting your goods

  3. and Apply for any licences you need to export your goods

  4. Step 3 Get your business ready to export

    You need an EORI number that starts with GB to export goods from England, Wales or Scotland.

    If you move goods to or from Northern Ireland you may need one that starts with XI.

    1. Get an EORI number
    1. Check if you need to register for VAT

    There are processes that can make clearing customs quicker and easier to manage if you export goods regularly.

    1. Find out about using simplified declaration procedures
    2. Check if you can use Common Transit to move your goods
    3. Check if Authorised Economic Operator status is right for you
  5. and Check whoever's receiving the goods can import them

    The business or person receiving the goods to may need:

    • to make an import declaration in their country
    • licences or certificates to receive goods from the UK

    Check whoever you are sending the goods to is able to import them into their country.

  6. Step 4 Decide who will make export declarations and transport the goods

  7. Step 5 Classify your goods

    You must find the right commodity code to classify the goods you're exporting.

    Your customs agent or transporter might be able to help you with this.

    1. Find the right commodity code for your goods
  8. Step 6 Prepare the invoice and other documentation for your goods

    The completed invoice and any licences or certificates must travel with the goods.

    When filling in the value of your goods on the invoice, use the price you’re selling them for. If you're not selling the goods, use the market value of the goods. List any freight or export insurance you included in the price separately.

    You may need proof of origin if exporting to a country where your goods have a reduced or zero rate of duty.

    1. Get proof of origin for your goods

    You might be able to zero rate the goods for VAT. This means you can charge your customers VAT at 0%.

    1. Check if you can zero rate the goods for VAT
  9. Step 7 Get your goods through customs

    If you've appointed someone to deal with UK customs for you, they'll make the declaration and get your goods through the UK border.

    1. Make an export declaration and get your goods cleared by UK customs

    You may need other documentation to get your goods into the destination country. Ask the person or business buying your goods what information you need to provide.

  10. Step 8 Keep invoices and records

    You must keep commercial invoices and any customs paperwork.

    If you're VAT registered, record the goods in your VAT accounts even if they are zero-rated.

    1. Find out how to record the goods in your VAT accounts

    If you exported controlled goods, for example firearms, keep the paperwork that shows who owns the goods.