On 11 August 2023, the UK Department for Business and Trade issued the Legal Advisory Services General Trade Licence (the “General Licence”) which came into force immediately. The General Licence was issued following the amendments to the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (the “UK Russia Regulations”) earlier in June (the “Amending Regulation”) which introduced certain restrictions to the provision of legal advisory services concerning sanctions against Russia.
As summarised in our previous blog on the introduction of the legal advisory services restrictions (which can be found here), the restrictions introduced under the Amending Regulation prohibit the direct or indirect provision of legal advisory services to any non-UK person in relation to, or in connection with, any activity which would be prohibited under a broad range of restrictions contained in the UK Russia Regulations, if it were to be carried out by a UK person or within the UK (the “Legal Advice Prohibition”).
As noted in our previous blog, the drafting of the Legal Advice Prohibition created a range of issues and far-reaching consequences, and the legal community has been involved in significant engagement with the UK Government to seek to address these issues and challenges. Following this period of engagement, the UK Government has now published the General Licence.
In summary, the General Licence provides that the provision of legal advisory services that would otherwise be prohibited under the Legal Advice Prohibition will be authorised under certain circumstances, as summarised below:
- In relation to whether an act or a proposed act complies with, or could trigger punitive measures (including administrative penalties) or restrictive measures (including sanctions, export and import controls) concerning Russia imposed by any jurisdiction;
- In relation to, or in connection with compliance with, or addressing the risk of punitive measures related to (i) sanctions or export and import controls imposed by any jurisdiction, (ii) any countermeasures implemented by Russia, or (iii) any criminal laws imposed by any jurisdiction; and/or
- In relation to whether the legal advisory services are provided in relation to the discharge of or compliance with UK statutory or regulatory obligations.
The use of the General Licence is subject to certain conditions and record-keeping requirements, including the following:
- Registration requirements: the person using the General Licence shall register within 30 calendar days of the first use of the General Licence. The registration process shall be done online via SPIRE – Export Licensing System, which is the site that is used for the application of export or trade licences; and
- Record keeping requirements: the records relating to any act authorised by the General Licence must be kept for a period of 4 years after the act was done.
The Department for Business and Trade has also published a Notice to Exporters with further details on the SPIRE registration process (available here). We expect that further guidance may be issued on the scope and approach to registration and record-keeping. We will continue to closely track the latest developments.