Brexit gets harder
The UK government is leaning on outmoded technological solutions to help it after Brexit and a possible departure from the EU customs union. That’s because the country’s customs currently depends on an old system that was supposed to have been scrapped five years ago – BT implemented the tech back in 1989 and a project for a new, upgraded version should have be implemented in 2012, but failed to deliver.
The government now favours the grandly named Chief 2 – Customs Declaration Services – replacement programme which has been designed to manage volumes of up to 150 million declarations a year. However, an exit from the EU will need a system capable of processing an estimated 200 million additional declarations annually, according to the Institute for Government (IFG).
Digital technology and a virtual border are touted as the guarantor of seamless, frictionless trade with the government maintaining that such solutions will ensure the control of goods without border posts, particularly in the case of Northern Ireland.
And there is IT potential here. “Sensors, scanners and using data to target interventions and manage risk are all used in some customs systems around the world and are likely to become increasingly important to modern customs,” according to the Implementing Brexit: Customs report from the IFG. “But in the short term, they are not a viable solution to the Brexit border question.”
“Ministers must recognise that ‘innovative, new ICT’ is not a viable option in the short-term,” warns the IFG, “and focus on upgrading existing systems to cope with Brexit.”
The government remains Brexit bullish even outside of customs control, though. In fact, Brexit Britain will be the ‘best country in the world’ in which to do maritime business thanks to more trade opportunities, more jobs and more investment in new technologies, reckons transport secretary Chris Grayling.
He adds that “leaving the European Union will allow Britain to seize new opportunities and rediscover our heritage as a truly global, seafaring, trading nation”.
The optimism comes off the back of the new national shipbuilding strategy which foresees a glorious maritime future with many more skilled jobs.
However, a study of UK shipbuilding by Defence Analysis is downbeat, stating that “no one yard gets the skills and economies of scale to drive down costs” in a very competitive industry.
Image: Steve Mullins