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In December 2021 the Government published a revised version of the licensing criteria for strategic exports.

What are strategic exports?

Any company wanting to export military or dual-use (that could have military or civilian use) goods to other nations must apply for a licence from the Government to do so.

These are referred to as controlled goods or items, and includes not just physical goods but also software and technology.

The list of goods which are controlled, and therefore require a licence for export, are collated in the Consolidated list of strategic military and dual-use items that require export authorisation (frequently referred to as the Consolidated List).

What is the criteria?

Over the last couple of decades the UK, and EU, developed a common set of eight criteria to assess licence applications. These reflect, among other things, the UK’s obligations under international law, and the potential for the items to be used in the violation of human rights. The Government last updated what was called the “Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria”, or Consolidated Criteria for short, in 2014.

Why has the criteria changed?

The UK’s exit from the EU was cited by the International Trade Secretary as one of the reasons for the need to revise the criteria:

We keep our controls under regular review to ensure that they continue to properly address the threats we face, keep pace with new technologies, and adapt to changing circumstances such as our exit from the EU, while providing an efficient service which does not impose an unworkable administrative burden on the defence and security industry.

What has changed?

References to the European Union and the EU 2008 common position have been removed from what is now called the Strategic Export Licencing Criteria.

The risk of items being used to commit or facilitate gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women or children is more prominently stated.

As well as amending the eight criteria, the written statement laying out the changes also includes “other factors”, by which the Government “in exceptional circumstances” may decide not to grant a licence “where the items may have a significant impact on the UK’s international relations.”

This paper briefly explains how the criteria fits into the UK’s strategic export controls system and how the criteria has evolved, before comparing each criterion in turn with the 2014 version.

Commons Library paper UK Arms Export Statistics provides information on licences granted. 

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