Why did we actually ban exporting Jane Austen's ring?

Who decides what is of "outstanding national importance"?

Kelly Clarkson, we assume, was dismayed when the Culture minister placed a temporary export ban on her recently purchased ring belonging to Jane Austen. The final decision is expected in September.  

The purpose of export controls is to ensure that cultural goods which are considered to be of "outstanding national importance" remain in the UK. The export licensing rules, administered by the Arts Council of England, apply to anyone who wants to take a "cultural object" (items such as works of art, furniture, antiques, archaeological artefacts and manuscripts) out of the country temporarily or permanently, regardless of its destination.

And surprising to some private collectors, there are no exemptions for those who make a temporary loan of a particular item or collection to exhibitions being held by overseas museums or galleries.

Whether or not a licence is required will largely depend on the age and value of the cultural object in question and whether it is to be exported within or outside the EU. Generally, a licence will be required if the object is more than 50 years old at the time of export and valued above specified financial thresholds (£180,000 for an oil painting exported within the EU and £130,451 for a painting exported outside the EU). 

Objects which are potentially of national importance, such as Jane Austen’s ring, will be referred to an expert committee for review. The committee will assess the object in question against the Waverley Criteria (is it so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune? Is it of outstanding aesthetic importance? Is it of outstanding significance for the study of some particular branch of art, learning or history?).  

If an object is considered to meet the Waverley Criteria, it will be designated as a national treasure and a decision on the export licence application will be deferred to enable an offer to purchase to be made (at a fair market price) to keep an object in the UK. But is this sense or sensibility?

Export licensing requirements are perhaps an unwelcome administrative burden for the owner who only wishes their treasured collection of art and antiques to grace a home overseas. To ensure that any last minute heartache is avoided, it’s best to be informed (think carefully about the age, origins and the value of your objects) and plan the process accordingly.

And of course, for those with homes around the world who do want to their art and antiques to cross borders, there’s also VAT and Customs Duties to consider when bringing objects into the UK or other EU countries (and similar taxes elsewhere) but let’s leave those anecdotes for another day.

Emily O'Donnell works at private wealth City law firm Maurice Turnor Gardner LLP.

This piece first appeared on Spear's Magazine.

Jane Austen's signature. Photograph: Getty Images

This is a story from the team at Spears magazine.

Arsène Wenger. Credit: Getty
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My biggest regret of the Wenger era? How we, the fans, treated him at the end

Arsenal’s greatest coach deserved better treatment from the Club’s supporters. 

I have no coherent memories of Arsenal before Arsène Wenger, who will leave the Club at the end of the season. I am aware of the Club having a new manager, but my continuous memories of my team are of Wenger at the helm.

They were good years to remember: three league titles, seven FA Cups, the most of any single manager in English football. He leaves the Club as the most successful manager in its history.

I think one of the reasons why in recent years he has taken a pasting from Arsenal fans is that the world before him now seems unimaginable, and not just for those of us who can't really remember it. As he himself once said, it is hard to go back to sausages when you are used to caviar, and while the last few years cannot be seen as below par as far as the great sweep of Arsenal’s history goes, they were below par by the standards he himself had set. Not quite sausages, but not caviar either.

There was the period of financial restraint from 2005 onwards, in which the struggle to repay the cost of a new stadium meant missing out on top player. A team that combined promising young talent with the simply bang-average went nine years without a trophy. Those years had plenty of excitement: a 2-1 victory over Manchester United with late, late goals from Robin van Persie and Thierry Henry, a delicious 5-2 thumping of Tottenham Hotspur, and races for the Champions League that went to the last day. It was a time that seemed to hold the promise a second great age of Wenger once the debt was cleared. But instead of a return to the league triumphs of the past, Wenger’s second spree of trophy-winning was confined to the FA Cup. The club went from always being challenging for the league, to always finishing in the Champions League places, to struggling to finish in the top six. Again, nothing to be sniffed at, but short of his earlier triumphs.

If, as feels likely, Arsenal’s dire away form means the hunt for a Uefa Cup victory ends at Atletico Madrid, many will feel that Wenger missed a trick in not stepping down after his FA Cup triumph over Chelsea last year, in one of the most thrilling FA Cup Finals in years. (I particularly enjoyed this one as I watched it with my best man, a Chelsea fan.) 

No one could claim that this season was a good one, but the saddest thing for me was not the turgid performances away from home nor the limp exit from the FA Cup, nor even finishing below Tottenham again. It was hearing Arsenal fans, in the world-class stadium that Wenger built for us, booing and criticising him.

And I think, that, when we look back on Wenger’s transformation both of Arsenal and of English football in general, more than whether he should have called it a day a little earlier, we will wonder how Arsenal fans could have forgotten the achievements of a man who did so much for us.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.