Export Licences

Most antiques and works of art may be exported from the UK without a specific export licence. A licence is only necessary for items of possible national interest and those more than 50 years old and over a certain value. Obtaining a licence is not usually a problem and in most cases it will be granted after consideration by the appropriate authority.


The export of works of art is subject to both UK and EU licensing designed to control the removal of cultural treasures from one state to another. Exporting from the UK may require either a UK or an EU licence depending on the monetary value of the object to be exported and whether it is being exported to another EU state or outside the EU. Once granted an EU export licence is valid in all member states regardless of the state that issued it.

Very occasionally there may be an objection to export on the grounds of national importance. If this is upheld, there will be a period during which a licence decision is deferred to enable an offer to purchase to be made at or above the fair market price. Normally a licence will not be refused without such a compensating offer.

Items which have been unlawfully exported could become subject to action for their recovery. Fair compensation will be paid to a person who has acquired an illegally exported object, provided he did so in good faith. However, the person responsible for its illegal export could be liable for prosecution and reimbursement to the state paying compensation.


The main restriction to consider is the export licence threshold, currently £65,000 for most objects over 50 years old destined for Europe. Most items below this threshold may be exported without an individual licence under Open General Export Licence procedures, although some categories (paintings of historical British personages for example) have lower or higher thresholds ranging between £Nil and £180,000.


A basic £34,300 threshold applies in respect of destinations outside the EU, although the threshold varies according to category.

A good dealer should be able to help you with this but should you wish to make the application yourself – application forms; export licences and the full list of thresholds are available from The Arts Council England, Head Office, 14 Great Peter Street, London SW1P 3NQ. For further assistance please visit them at http://www.artscouncil.org.uk or by emailing them at elu@artscouncil.org.uk. Telephone 0800 300 6200


Items containing specimens of endangered species of flora or fauna such as carved ivory or tusk usually require a certificate in order to be legally exported from the United Kingdom. Furthermore, a separate licence may be required by other countries to import antiques containing such specimens. Provided the piece is antique these certificates, known as C.I.T.E.S. certificates, are not generally difficult to obtain. BADA dealers are usually happy to apply for them on your behalf as part of their service. However, should you wish to deal with the application yourself forms can be obtained from C.I.T.E.S. Licensing, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Floor 1, Zone 17, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol BS1 6EB. Telephone 0117-372 8168.


Firearms more than 50 years old may require a cultural goods export licence (see above). In addition, a Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) export licence may also be required for firearms manufactured since 1897 and for some made before that date. Again, your antique dealer should be able to advise you about a licence, but if you prefer you may wish to contact the Export Control Organisation, Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, 3rd floor, 1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET. Telephone: 020-7215 0531. www.berr.gov.uk/europeantrade/strategic-export-control

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