On 16 March 2021 the UK published its Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy titled “Global Britain in a competitive age”, which sets out the UK government’s overarching national security and international policy objectives through to 2025.
The Review contains a number of references to the UK’s post Brexit sanctions regime and places the UK’s autonomous sanctions policy at the centre of Britain’s overall security structure. Building on the so called “Magnitsky-style” human rights sanctions regime that the UK instituted in July 2020 to target persons involved in serious human rights violations, the Review indicates that the UK will continue to use its sanctions regimes as part of an integrated approach to combatting state threats, terrorism, cyber-attacks and the proliferation of weapons. There is also an explicit acknowledgement in the Review that the departure from the EU will allow a swifter and more agile sanctions response to events than Britain was able to achieve whilst in the EU, where decision making involved the Council, the EEAS, and Commission and required consensus across all member states.
Interestingly, it also indicated that the UK will launch a second global sanctions regime on corruption in 2021, complementing the Magnitsky human rights sanctions regime, which will give the UK powers to prevent those involved in corruption from utilising the UK’s financial system. It also explicitly acknowledges that the UK will look to work proactively with allies with similar sanctions regimes, such as the US and Canada.
Overall, these are indications that Britain will pursue a more overtly “Atlanticist” sanctions policy, characterised by swifter actions than in the past and driven by both human rights and now corruption concerns, and with increasing cooperation with like-minded sanctions partners across the Atlantic. It builds upon other features of the UK’s sanctions regime that are styled on US principles, such as the ability to issue general licences and the use of DPAs in enforcement action.
These policy announcements will not significantly change the private sector’s approach to sanctions compliance per se. Risk mitigation methods such as customer due diligence / screening, a robust sanctions policy and risk assessment, as well as training and auditing will continue to be at the centre of good sanctions compliance going forward, just as they always have been.
They are, however, an indication that there will be an increasing number of potential sanctions touchpoints for businesses as the breadth of the UK’s sanctions regime is increased. It is a timely reminder that a robust sanctions compliance framework is required to mitigate these risks more than ever.