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News & Press: International Trade News

Government to allow electronic export licence applications

14 April 2020  

Measures to enable remote completion of export licence applications during the COVID-19 lockdown have been announced by the Department for International Trade (DIT).

DIT’s Export Control Joint Unit (ECJU) will now accept electronic signatures in licence applications where physical signatures cannot be arranged.

Up until now, such applications required ‘wet’ signatures on physical documents posted to ECJU.

The response time for complying with requests for further information (RFIs) has also been increased. 

The move comes as remote working affects the ECJU’s “ability to manage export licence applications and supporting documentation”, a statement said.

Exporter needs

The continued handling of export control licences was last month described by DIT as a “business critical operation”.

Roger Arthey, Chairman of the IOE&IT’s Export Control Profession, welcomed these new measures, telling the Daily Update (14 April):

“We are pleased that, although the ECJU itself is facing difficult times like the rest of us, they are responding to the needs of exporters by ensuring export licensing continues and by introducing interim measures such as accepting electronic signatures and pdf versions of end user undertakings and stockist undertakings.”

Measures introduced include:

  • E-signatures (including ‘simple’, ‘advanced’ and ‘qualified’ electronic signatures) can be used for supporting documentation
  • Companies now have 40 rather than 20 days to obtain supporting documentation to respond to RFIs
  • Exporters are no longer required to obtain original copies of end-user and stockist undertakings and can instead present pdf versions
  • For dual-use items in another EU member state, a printed copy of the license from SPIRE can be presented to Customs, rather than a hard copy

A full explanation of these measures can be found here.

Keep good records

Arthey also said companies need to ensure good record keeping, despite the temporary changes:

“Despite the necessary changes to ECJU compliance checks, exporting organisations should continue to maintain their export records in good order so that whenever and however their compliance checks take place they run smoothly and successfully.”
The ECJU also set out clarifications regarding compliance checks during the pandemic, which can be viewed here.