UK Export Licence Data

Do these figures show the value of exported goods?

No, only the value of goods that licence holders are allowed to export; the UK government does not publish values of actual exports.

All monetary values shown in this application refer to the value of goods specified in standard export licences that have been issued by the UK government.

There is no public data available about whether the licence holders exported those goods in full, in part, or not at all, so we only know the amount of goods the holder is permitted to export.

There is also another type of licence called an “open” licence. These allow the licence holder to export an unlimited quantity of the goods specified in the licence, so there is no way of knowing what quantity may have been exported. Since there is no monetary limit for these, we report the number of these unlimited licences so that comparisons can be made between different search results.

What is this data?

All licences granted by the UK government to export arms and other controlled goods since 2008.

Here we present records of all controlled goods approved or rejected for export by the UK government since 2008. Summaries of exports by category of goods, or country of desination can be seen on the overview page, which details of individual licences can be seen on the licence list page. The information show can be searched using the many filters available.

Where does this data come from?

From the quarterly reports of the UK Export Control Joint Unit.

The Export Control Joint Unit of the UK Department for International Trade collects data on export licences for controlled goods.

Licence data is published in quarterly reports and made available through the Strategic Export Controls online database.

Data for each quarter is made available approximately four months after the quater ends; eg. data for Q1, January to March, is published in June.

Why is this data incomplete?

Since early 2023 the UK government stores roughly 15% of export data in a parallel system which is not public.

The UK government has begun developing a new database, LITE, to manage export licence data in the future. The existing database, SPIRE, is publicly searchable, but LITE is currently completely opaque. In early 2023 the government invited certain licence applicants to apply through LITE instead of SPIRE, and consequently information about these licences is no longer publicly searchable. Some approximation of what data is held in LITE can be achieved by comparing public SPIRE data to quarterly reports that contain total values of combined SPIRE and LITE licences.

The value of standard (limited-value) licences hidden in LITE for 2023 is estimated to be £970m.

Why are results involving companies different?

Data about company export applications come from a different source to our other licence data and cannot be cross-referenced.

Data about companies that have applied for export licences comes from a series of freedom of information requests (FoIRs) made by CAAT to the UK government. There is no reliable way to match this data to data from the quarterly export licence reports. Consequently, when filtering the data by company name, the results will look different and other filter options that are not applicable will appear disabled. In particular, company data only covers licences for military goods and cannot be filtered by item contents.

Further, since 2016 FoIRs for complete data have been rejected by the government, and we are now in the process of making topical requests for partial data. Thus, full company licence application results are only available for the period of 2008-2015 and any results outside this range are incomplete.

Why is CAAT republishing this data?

To provide an interactive and searchable alternative to the government PDF reports.

The data published by ECJU is not accessible enough. The figures are buried in PDF documents, which must be downloaded individually from a slow and complex website. Each report takes several minutes to generate before it can be downloaded, and it is necessary to download many reports in order to get a good sense of the goods exported to a given country.

Our aim was to provide a simple, searchable web application, open to everyone, with which it would be possible to link directly to any fragment or collection of data. We also provide the raw data in CSV format for re-use by other researchers or applications.

How can I receive updates when there is new data?

Follow CAAT data releases on Twitter, GitHub, or via RSS.

Twitter: @CaatData publishes notifications of all updates to our data resources.

GitHub: @caatdata publishes the raw data used in our data browsers in machine-readable formats.

RSS: our UK Exports feed will notify you of updates as soon as we publish them.

What's the difference between “military” and “dual-use” licences?

Goods are “dual-use” if they have both military and non-military applications.

Military items are items are designed exclusively for military use, for example: a fighter jet; an armoured personnel carrier; or a combat radar.

Dual-use items are designed to be used for either military or civilian purposes, for example: materials or chemicals that may be used to make bombs; night-vision technology; precision machining equipment; or cryptographic software.

Note that the military category also includes police para-military equipment, typically that used for crowd control, for example riot shields or stun grenades.

Military and dual-use categorisation is defined by the Common Military List of The European Union.

You can filter search results by military or dual-use with the “Use” filter.

What do the rating names like “ML10”, “PL5001”, “5A002”, and so on mean?

These are categories of goods defined in the Common Military List of The European Union.

These are codes defined by the European Union that the UK government uses to classify types of items for export. ML stands for “military”, PL originally meant “police”, and rating name beginning with numbers indicate more general dual-use classifications.

All ML ratings are in the military list; all numbered ratings are in the Dual-Use list; PL includes some items on the military list and some on the dual use list.

Additionally, some non-standard rating names such as “RUS”, “SYR”, “ZWE” denote approved exports made to embargoed or restricted countries under exceptional circumstances.

A full list of ratings and descriptions can be seen by viewing licences for both military and dual-use goods on the ratings page. The original rating definitions are available in the Common Military List Of The European Union.

What's the difference between “ratings” and “items”?

“Ratings” are broad legal categories defined by the EU. “Items” are more specific groups defined by the UK government.

Some items correspond tidily to a specific rating while others do not. For example, the item “combat helicopters” is always classified with the “ML10” rating for “Military aircraft, helicopters and drones”, whereas the item “weapon sights” may fall under any of ratings “ML1”, “ML2” or “ML5” depending on the calibre of the weapon it is designed for.

What's the difference between “standard” and “open” licences

Standard licences allow a limited value of certain goods to be exported; open licences allow export of an unlimited quantity of specified goods.

Standard licences allow the licence holder to export a specific list of items, but only up to a specified monetary value. The exporter must specify the items they wish to export and their value when applying for the licence, and the licences will be approved or refused based on that information.

The monetary values in the available published data are specified for groups of items, based on their category, rather than for each item. For example, a licence may allow the holder to export pistols, shotguns, and body armour, while the values may be specified as £4,000 of small arms and £2,000 of protective equipment.

Open licences allow licence holders to export an unlimited quantity of specified goods. The government calls these “open” licences, but for clarity we use the term “unlimited”.

Note that the data presented here refer to the licences that have been issued, refused or revoked. In most cases no data is available on whether the licence holders actually exported the goods specified in their licences

Are there other types of licences not included here?

Yes, Open General Export Licences are not included in this data.

The UK Government frequently issues Open General Export Licences (OGELs) to cover the export of a range of military and dual-use items to specific destinations. An exporter must register to use an OGEL, but it allows them to avoid applying for a specific licence under their own name. The government does not publish details or quantities of goods that are exported under OGELs.

Why do numbers of licences sometimes differ from those in the official reports?

The government data is ambiguous and often bundles several licences together such that they appear as one.

Licence data published in the official reports is aggregated by date and destiniation country. We have made all possible efforts to separate individual licences by cross-checking data from different reports, but inevitably some ambiguity remains. Thus, some licences listed in our data are actually multiple licences that we have been unable to separate so the number of licences that we show for a given destination is likely to be lower than the official figure.

Further, a single actual licence may permit export to multiple countries, though this information is not published in the official statistics. Thus we count each permitted destination as representing a separate licence.

Why do values of licences sometimes differ from those in the official reports?

The government data rounds up totals in inconsistent ways.

The official reports aggregate numeric values differently for different types of licences; sometimes figures are rounded before they are summed, and sometimes the totals are rounded instead. When we attempt to separate individual licences from the aggregated data there is occasionally a discrepancy of a few pounds.

Why do some licences have unknown values?

The value of some types of licences is limited, but not published.

One type of licence, the Standard Individual Trade Control Licence (SITCL), allows the licence holder to export of a limited value of goods, but the official data does not specify the value of the limit. Since the value is not known, we count SITCLs with the total of unlimited licences in this application.

Where can I ask further questions about this data?

Email [email protected] with any questions about the data.

Can I re-use, re-publish or analyse this data?

Yes, the raw data is available on GitHub and is covered by a permissive licence.

We publish our raw UK licence data every quarter on GitHub.

The data is implicitly covered by an Open Government Licence which requires attribution and explicitly permits non-commercial reuse and distribution.

Where can journalists obtain more information or a quote to accompany a story about this data?

Email [email protected] for any media-related queries.

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