The system requires applicants to download and complete a digital application form. The unit described it as a solution “during the current exceptional circumstances”.

Art, antiques and collectables more than 50 years old deemed cultural goods must be accompanied by an export licence from the Arts Council if they are to be exported.

A backlog of applications has arisen during the Covid-19 hiatus.

A number of dealers contacted ATG to criticise the length of time it took to reopen the system following its closure in March and have argued the system should have been made digital previously.

The British Art Market Federation (BAMF) has long been campaigning for the system to move from paper to a digital format.

Anthony Browne, chairman at BAMF, said: “It is essential that the long-promised digital export licensing system is in place and operational by the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.”

‘Terrific work’

Members of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (ABA) have been among those most affected by the closure of the ELU – many books and manuscripts coming under the cultural goods definition.

President Roger Treglown said: “Export licences protect Britain’s heritage, while keeping the UK (and ABA) at the heart of the art market.

“Getting the system moving efficiently again is essential for many of our members, and we also welcome the progress which is being made towards digital licences.

“We are grateful to BAMF for the terrific work they have been doing.”