How the government monitors imports into the UK.
After the UK leaves the EU on 31 January 2020 we will enter a transition period. This will apply until 31 December 2020. The import controls listed on this page will remain in force during the transition period.
The Trade Policy Group of the Department for International Trade (DIT) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) deals with trade policy, regimes and procedural issues governing imports into the UK.
An import licence is not needed to import the majority of industrial goods into the United Kingdom or EU.
However, some industrial goods need import licences, issued by the Import Licensing Branch (ILB), as a result of controls imposed at national, EU or UN level. ILB publicises these restrictions by issuing Notices to Importers.
The UK is part of the EU Single Market and the European Commission has sole responsibility for the EU’s commercial policy. With limited exceptions (for example, on security or health grounds), the UK is unable to introduce national import controls.
National import controls
National import controls are imposed using the UK’s national import prohibition legislation Import, Export and Customs Powers (Defence) Act 1939. DIT controls its use within government.
All national import controls are listed in the Open General Import Licence (OGIL) made under it. For example, import licensing controls on firearms back up Home Office domestic legislation on the possession of firearms so that only those with authority to own firearms can import them.
EU import controls
Because of their effect on the EU single market, EU import controls are directly applicable in all EU member states, so further national legislation is not needed. They are imposed when the EU needs to carry out a measure agreed within the EU or internationally (for example, a UN Security Council resolution), or to carry out an EU trade policy decision.
Import controls can be imposed as a result of international obligations, such as UN Security Council resolutions. As these affect the functioning of the EU single market, their introduction is usually by EU regulation and directly applicable in all EU member states. Occasionally, they may be implemented as national measures where the OGIL is amended.
Sanctions against a particular country often include a range of measures including export and financial controls. For further information on current sanctions, please consult the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), HM Treasury, or the Export Control Organisation (ECO).
Current import controls
There are 3 types of control:
- bans – where no import is allowed
- quotas - where the volume of goods is restricted
- surveillance – where the import of goods is monitored with licences
Goods currently subject to import bans and licensing controls are:
- UN ban on the import of anti-personnel mines
- EU ban on the import of torture equipment
- EU ban on the import of certain products from Iran
- EU ban on the import of certain products from Syria
- EU ban on the import of certain products from North Korea
- EU ban on the import of certain products from Russia and Crimea
- EU prior surveillance monitoring regime on imports of aluminium and steel
- UK licensing controls on the import of firearms
Applying for an import licence
You can apply for an import licence at www.ilb.trade.gov.uk.
Contact email@example.com for further advice on import controls ILB is responsible for.
Other government departments that control imports
You will find a full list of import controls and the government department responsible for them in volume 1 part 3 of the HM Revenue and Customs Integrated Tariff.
It is the responsibility of importers to ensure that they are aware of import restrictions and controls.
Certificates of Free Sale (CFS)
Certificates of Free Sale are also issued by ILB to exporters. This is increasingly necessary – mainly for goods that come into contact with humans such as cosmetics - in countries that by comparison do not have such stringent product safety standards and enforcement as the EU. CFS declarations effectively confirm that the goods listed meet the UK/EU’s high safety standards as they are being sold in the EU single market.
Please see our. There are several government departments that issue Certificates of Free Sale:
- Defra for goods that come into contact with animals (veterinary medicines for example)
- the Department of Health issues CFS for medicines
- the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for biocides
Notices to Importers
The Notices to Importers (NTI) listed below explain the import prohibitions and controls that are currently in force.
National import controls
|UK Open General Import Licence (OGIL) and guidance on its use||24 December 2019|
|Explanatory note: Open General Import Licence dated 2 August 2019||2 August 2019|
|2927||Firearms import licensing – additional information requirements||17 September 2019|
|2926||EU firearms transfers||13 September 2019|
|2922||Imports of firearms ammunition import licensing arrangements 2017||16 July 2019|
|2921||Mandatory use of EORI numbers for import licences||2 October 2019|
|2920||Defence and Security International Exhibition (DSEI)||16 July 2019|
|Signed import licence (DSEI 2019) granted by the Secretary of State||16 July 2019|
|2915||Office for Nuclear Regulation issues import licences for nuclear material and their application procedure||31 January 2019|
European import controls
NTI prior surveillance
|2932||Current range of EU measures in force on steel||29 January 2020|
|2930||EU prior surveillance import licensing regime update||3 January 2020|
|2907||EU Russia wood tariff quota arrangements||21 November 2018|
|2923||Russia - import restrictions||16 July 2019|
|2909||Crimea - import sanctions||21 November 2018|
|2910||Syria sanctions||21 November 2018|
|2911||Iran sanctions - current import restrictions and derogations||21 November 2018|
|2912||North Korea import sanctions||21 November 2018|
NTI international obligations
|2906||Import of certain equipment and products which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment||21 November 2018|
|2905||UK ban on import of anti personnel landmines||21 November 2018|
|2913||Certificates of free sale||21 November 2018|