Petra Warrington writes on the proposed reforms to save more art for the nation

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Proposed reforms to save more art for the nation – Petra Warrington (1 February 2019, Law Gazette)

In the UK, cultural objects of a certain age and monetary value require a licence in order to be exported out of the country. An owner wishing to export a valuable work must obtain a licence from the Arts Council following a review process. When an application for an export licence is made in respect of an object deemed to be of outstanding national significance, the granting of the licence is deferred for a period of time to allow domestic institutions an opportunity to raise funds to acquire the object at fair market value, should the owner agree.

Critics of the UK’s export licensing regime for objects of cultural interest sometimes lament that the system lacks teeth. As a result, each year the opportunity to retain significant works of art and precious objects for the nation is lost. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has launched a public consultation to address this issue which closes on 24th February 2019. The UK has what is generally considered a liberal and balanced approach to export licensing controls and does not operate a compulsory purchase system in the way that some European countries do. Under the law as it currently stands, the person applying for an export licence can withdraw the application without penalty and is not legally obliged to complete the sale of the object to an institution even if he/she has committed to doing so and the institution has spent time and resources in raising acquisition funds on the basis of that commitment.

Read the full article on the Law Gazette