Composites UK Representatives Meet with the Department for Business and Trade’s Export Controls Joint Unit

On the 9th April the Prof. Alan Banks, Chair of Composites UK, its Vice-Chair, Luke Vardy, Neil Anderton from member company Slack & Parr and the Chair of the Composites Leadership Forum, Rob Blackburn, were among the invitees to a Make UK roundtable in Westminster to discuss issues with export controls with the Department for Business and Trade Export Controls Joint Unit (ECJU) team.

As previously reported, UK export controls have been a source of frustration for many Composites UK members and the Association is taking strides to overcome these with ECJU. Jo Thompson (Deputy Director of ECJU) gave an overview of the differences between the UK trade policy and that of the EU and our allies, which gives the UK tighter controls based on military end-use. Whilst done for the right reasons, it was pointed out this policy can cause issues downstream, based around the business readiness perceptions of UK companies, in that export delays damage our international reputation as being ‘open for business’:

  • Ambiguities regarding controlled goods, being both non-listed and dual use
  • Opacity regarding foreign suppliers who may be prohibited
    • Timing of export licenses to these suppliers when intel changes within ECJU between application and shipping date
  • Timing of export licence application and no license required (NLR) decision
  • Perceived lack of understanding within ECJU regarding specialist knowledge of export requests

Composites UK suggested that the ECJU team benchmark how other regions – specifically the EU and USA – manage their export controls to speed up the processes and remove the bureaucracy without compromising national security. This will be followed up in up in due course. Views of the Shadow Ministers will be sought as, in an election year, these will have just as much influence.

The UK needs to be seen as open for business with fast turnarounds and proactive government departments whose soul aim should be to grow business and not inadvertently stifle it. Composite materials are going to become more prolific as we move towards net-zero economies and the UK is at the forefront to exploit global markets. It is in our interests to ensure export controls are as seamless as possible to promote UK opportunities. Composites UK has offered ongoing help within ECJU to keep this moving forward positively.

Prof Alan Banks, Chairman, Composites UK