On 28 December 2020 new rules on the import of cultural objects over 250 years old into EU member states came into law with full enforcement expected by 2025. The EU regulations (Regulation (EU) 2019/880) now require a special import license for all archaeological objects entering the EU which must provide proof of legal export from the country of origin. The new laws were widely opposed by the art trade and dealer associations but to no avail.
The new EU regulations are widely seen to be impossible to comply with and may prove an insurmountable obstacle to importation for many archaeological objects lawfully owned for decades. The new rules fail to acknowledge that very few antiquities on the market have the export documents that the regulations now require, either due to source counties failing to provide them, or due to subsequent loss in the many years that most antiquities have been circulating on the market. Some feel that the new regulations will end most of the trade in antiquities from the UK (and USA) into EU member states. This will have a profound affect on EU-based collectors previously used to buying antiquities from the UK and USA with no impediment.
The UK however has confirmed that it will not be implementing the new EU legislation, resulting in a much freer market in the UK which should greatly benefit UK dealers and collectors. This does not mean that the UK will become a haven for looted antiquities. The UK already has laws prohibiting the import and trading of looted objects (the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003, and the Cultural Property Armed Conflicts Act 2017). Policing will be intelligence-led rather than through blanket restrictions as seen in EU member states.
Cultural Property News discusses the new European import regulations and Britain's decision not to implement them here. They also discuss other UK-specific issues such application of money laundering rules and the redefinition of treasure. We highly recommend subscribing to their very informative newsletter.