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

You will need an export licence before you can export controlled military goods, software and technology and UK dual use items from the UK to another country. This is described in Schedule 2 and 3, to the Export Control Order 2008, as amended.

You will need a trade control licence before engaging in certain activities that involve the supply or delivery, the agreement to supply or deliver, or any activity that will promote the supply or delivery of, certain goods from one third country to another. A third country is a non-EU country or one not included in an EU agreement.

You can assess your goods, software and technology against the UK Strategic Export Control Lists to determine whether or not they are controlled. The online checker tool can also be used to help determine if the items are controlled and identify the appropriate control entry.

You can apply for a licence through the online export licensing system 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.

There are other items specified as controlled in Schedule 2 to the Order, which are not necessarily specially designed or modified for military use. These items include firearms, automatic weapons, ammunition, security and para-military police equipment riot-control vehicles, chemical and biological agents, explosives and energetic materials.

Controlled dual-use items

Controlled dual-use items are specified in Schedule 3 to the Export Control Order 2008. Items include:

  • 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.

The term “UK person” as used in the Order, 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.

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

Trade controls and arranging sales or movements

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

Find out more about sanctions and embargoes.

Goods for which you cannot arrange sales or movement

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

There are strict trade controls on activities relating to category B goods which includes goods and components such as:

  • 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

For category B goods, a trade control licence is required to supply or deliver, agree to supply or deliver or 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 re-insurance service, general advertising or promotion services or a contract promotion activity where a payment is not received.

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, agree to supply or deliver or 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

A licence is not required if your only involvement in a transaction is the provision of transportation services, financing or financial services, insurance or reinsurance services or general advertising or promotion services. In addition, as for category B goods, an export licence is not required for ‘contract promotion activity’ where 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.

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.

The controls on trade to embargoed destinations closely match those applying to category A goods and cover the same range of activities. These controls are extra-territorial in nature, which means that, as with trade in category B and A goods, they apply both to activities that take place in the UK and to the activities of UK persons anywhere else in the world.

Find out more about sanctions and embargoes.

Who trade control rules apply to

Activities in relation to trade controlled goods require a trade licence if they are undertaken ‘by any person in the UK’. This applies to UK and non-UK citizens. Depending on the trade controls applicable to the goods they will also apply to any UK person overseas. This includes:

  • companies or other bodies incorporated under UK law or a Scottish partnership
  • UK nationals (including British citizens, British citizens in British overseas territories, British Nationals (Overseas), British Overseas Citizens and ‘British subjects’ and ‘British protected persons’ under the British Nationality Act 1981)

The rules apply to UK nationals whether they have right of abode in the UK or not. They apply whether the UK national is working for a UK company, for a non-UK company or for themselves.

When you need a trade control licence

You must have a trade control licence if you or your company is undertaking controlled activities including brokering involving category A, B or C goods. It applies to activities undertaken by persons in the UK and to UK persons overseas. The control includes brokering involving category A, category B and category C goods.

There are four 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 the online export licensing system managed by the Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU).

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

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 the online export licensing system.

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, it applies to services as well as goods.

ECJU contact details

Helpline

Contact the helpline for general queries about strategic export licensing.

Export Control Joint Unit
2nd floor 
3 Whitehall Place
London
SW1A 2AW

Email: exportcontrol.help@trade.gov.uk

Telephone: 020 7215 4594

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