Does sanctions loophole let Russian oil into Britain?

Campaigners claim that loophole could see other countries that have not banned Russian crude imports used as a back door for oil exports into the UK

A loophole in the UK’s current ban on imports of Russian oil might still allow some of these products to enter the UK, campaigners have claimed.

On 5th December, the UK ban came into force – in the official documents, it is stated: “The UK ban will prohibit the import, acquisition, supply and delivery of Russian oil and oil products into the UK and associated ancillary services in respect of these activities.”

However, the rules note that “goods obtained in one or more countries, will have the origin of the last country in which substantial processing has taken place that is economically justified”.

The policy states: “For example, if crude oil from the United Arab Emirates is refined in Sweden to produce diesel, these would be deemed to originate in Sweden.”

In response to these lines, campaigners fear that this loophole could see other countries continue importing Russian oil and after specific processes exporting it, with a different country of origin label, to the UK.

Louis Wilson, a Senior Campaigner at Global Witness, told ELN: “The UK’s energy sanctions have sadly prioritised the fossil fuel industry over the Ukrainian people. Allowing Russian oil into the UK, so long as it’s been refined elsewhere on its journey, threatens to reduce our embargo to nothing more than a press release.”

A BEIS spokesperson told ELN: “In light of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and weaponisation of energy, the government has taken steps to end all imports of Russian fossil fuels including a ban of oil and oil products from 5th December.

“The origin of a product, such as oil, is dictated using existing non-preferential rules of origin and importers must be able to provide proof that goods are not of Russian origin. The UK has no issues with either gas or oil supply and is not dependent on Russian energy imports.”

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