On 12 October, 2018, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office released guidance on the UK’s sanctions policy if there is no Brexit deal. The guidance is part of a series of technical notices that sets out information to allow businesses and citizens to understand what they would need to do in a ‘no deal’ scenario, so they can make informed plans and preparations.

Prior to 29 March 2019, the UK is legally required to implement and enforce sanctions regimes agreed by the UN Security Council and, as a member of the EU, by the EU.

The details of sanctions regimes are set out in EU law, in European Council Decisions and Regulations. The UK implements sanctions through EU Regulations and associated UK domestic legislation, such as the Export Control Order 2008 and the Immigration Act 1971.

After 29 March 2019, as international law requires, the UK will implement UN sanctions in UK domestic law after the UK leaves the EU.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the UK will look to carry over all EU sanctions at the time of our departure and will implement sanctions regimes through new legislation, in the form of regulations, made under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 (the Sanctions Act). The Act will provide the legal basis for the UK to impose, update and lift sanctions after leaving the EU.

The Government proposes to put much of this legislation before Parliament before March 2019, to prepare for the possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a deal. Any sanctions regimes that the Government did not address, through regulations under the Sanctions Act by March 2019, would continue as retained EU law under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. This means there will be no gaps in implementing existing sanctions regimes.

We expect that the UK’s sanctions regulations will include:

  • the purposes of the sanctions regime (what the UK hopes will be achieved through imposing sanctions)
  • the criteria to be met before sanctions can be imposed on a person or group
  • details of sanctions, such as trade and financial sanctions
  • details of exemptions that may apply, such as exemptions which allow people to trade with a certain country that would
  • otherwise be prohibited by the regulations
  • how the UK will enforce the sanctions measures
  • other areas, such as circumstances in which information about sanctions may be shared

The names of sanctioned persons or organisations would be published as normal.

After the UK leaves the EU, in addition to implementing UN sanctions, and looking to carry over existing EU sanctions, the UK will also have the powers to adopt other sanctions under the Sanctions Act. The UK will work with the EU and other international partners on sanctions where this is in our mutual interest.

If there is no Brexit deal, persons affected by sanctions are advised refer to the Sanctions Act and the UK regulations made under it. If the UK has not yet made regulations for the sanctions regime in question, the EU Council Regulations retained under the EU Withdrawal Act 2018, (which may be modified under that Act) are to be followed.

One should not assume that all aspects of existing EU sanctions will be replicated exactly. New legislation and future guidance should be checked and complied with.