A review of the UK autonomous sanctions regime

When the UK voted to leave the EU, a requirement for the UK to enact its own Sanctions legislation was created. The starting point was the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 (SAMLA) which set out the groundwork for the legislative framework.

Once SAMLA was in place, the UK began to issue SAMLA derived statutory instruments (SI) to cover the existing Sanctions regimes enacted under EU and UN membership.

In total, 50 EU exit Sanctions SIs were laid in the period between January 2019 and December 2020, starting with the Iran Sanctions SI and completing with Libya.

The completion of the transition period saw the UK move from an EU derived list of individuals and entities to a UK managed one. This was not simply a copy and paste exercise and all entries were reviewed against the requirements for listing under the UK framework.

The UK Sanctions regime was able to undertake some consolidation and clarify the language contained within the SIs. Under the EU programme there were three Ukraine regimes and the UK regime combined two of these into a single Russia SI.

Once the UK had formally left the EU in January 2020, there was an opportunity to enact regimes that supported UK foreign policy. The first of these was the UK Global Human Rights SI which Agathe covered in her July 2020 blog. This was the first real change that led to divergence with the EU, as at the time, there wasn't a Global Human Rights regime for the EU as a whole. Gloria Perez Torres mentioned that the EU states that did have some national level human rights regimes in her blog earlier in 2020. The divergence was alleviated when the EU announced its own Human Rights sanctions regime in December 2020, which UK Finance's Agathe Duchiron covered in her blog at the time.

The UK legislative framework has been in active service for just over eight months and has shown that the UK is prepared to forge its own path. The UK announced the Global Anti Corruption Sanctions in May 2021 and this encapsulated the Misappropriation SI and strengthened the anti-corruption aspect by adding bribery. Combined with the Global Human Rights SI, the addition of the Global Anti-Corruption SI gave the UK the same coverage that the US and Canada have with their respective ?Magnitsky? style sanctions programs.

The current status is that with a more responsive autonomous regime, the UK is able to react quickly to global developments. Many recent sanctions enactments, while not fully harmonised, have been coordinated with the EU, US and Canada.

In this year's Economic Crime Congress (#ECC21), I sit down with Maya Lester QC for a fireside chat about the UK autonomous regime and how we feel it is settling in. You can register for attendance here. The Economic Crime Congress is free for UK Finance members and associate members.

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