Will technology solve the Brexit and EU borders issue
Lorries backed up to Birmingham, truckers rioting at thePort of Dover, holidaymakers stuck in queues for days and Boris Johnsonzipwiring into the Channel. Will these be the scenes at the border after Brexit?
Hopefully not. But with less than six months to go now before Britain leaves the European Union, it’s still utterly unclear what the situation will be for importers, exporters, travellers and commuters – and whether technology could save the day in time.
What could change?
At the moment, there are passport checks but no customs checks between Britain and the EU. After Brexit, there may be either full or partial customs controls, and according to the National Audit Office, some 145,000 traders who currently import or export goods solely within the EU might have to make customs declarations for the first time. Even if there is a free trade agreement with no tariffs, unless the UK stays in the customs union, companies would have to provide “proof of origin” – proof that UK goods are, indeed, from the UK. There may also have to be checks to make sure UK goods meet EU safety and quality standards.
This is already normal – 57 per cent of our exports and 46 per cent of our imports are to and from non-EU countries – and good technology could ensure minimal disruption when Brexit happens. Neither of the above checks needs to be done at the border if you have the systems to do them elsewhere: goods could be checked and declared electronically before they leave the factory, for example.
Some viable solutions
The Evening Standard reported last month that goods could be tracked across the Irish border using barcodes. Other ideas that have been mooted include biometric checks, or number plate recognition at the Port of Dover, which could match lorries coming in and out with electronic customs declarations (documents giving details of goods being imported or exported) already input into HMRC’s IT system.
In Norway, which is not part of the EU, shared IT systems help goods travel efficiently across the border with Sweden. Customs checks can be done within a zone nine miles either side of the border; the Swiss-German border has a similar setup. Number plate recognition cameras are used on unmanned routes into the country, and goods can be declared digitally in warehouses.
But technology takes time to bring in. So it should be reassuring to learn that the UK government was already preparing to upgrade its 20-year-old customs IT system back in 2013-4. The new system, called CDS, is designed to be able to cope with the increased number of customs declarations expected after Brexit. Unfortunately, almost five years on, the government still hasn’t actually managed to complete this and was lambasted by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee earlier this month for the delays. CDS is now officially expected to be ready in January, just two months before the UK leaves the EU.
If your business is working on ground breaking technology that could solve some of the issues being thrown up by Brexit, you could be eligible to claim funds back from the government through research and development tax credits. And as R&D tax specialists, R&D Tax Solutions can do all the work for you and liaise with r&d tax claim, so you don’t have to take time away from your projects. Have a look at our r&d tax credit calculator for an estimate of the value of your claim and contact us today for assistance.