Smart Border 2.0 report: ‘sensible and positive progress’ on Brexit

A study entitled ‘Smart Border 2.0: Avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland for Customs control and the free movement of persons’ was published by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs in February and could offer solutions that would apply to all cross-border trade between the UK and the EU after Brexit.
Written by Lars Karlsson – president of KGH Border Services, former director of the World Customs Organization and deputy director general of Swedish Customs – the study notes that the EU, as well as the governments of the UK and Ireland, have stated their commitment to avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit. However, some form of border controls will be required.
The study says: “Given the uncertainty around the final shape of any agreements between the EU and the UK as well as the time taken to implement any solutions at the border, it is important that what is implemented is flexible enough to meet all political outcomes.”
Significantly: “Such solutions should also be scalable, as they can provide a template for future UK-EU border processes,” it adds.
Karlsson looks at cases where technology and processes have enabled low-friction borders to operate effectively (such as between Norway and Sweden), and proposes the following solutions for the cross-border movement of goods between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland post Brexit:

  • A bilateral EU-UK agreement regulating an advanced Customs cooperation that
  • avoids duplication and where UK and Irish Customs can undertake inspections on
  • behalf of each other;
  • Mutual recognition of Authorized Economic Operators (AEO);
  • A Customs-to-Customs technical agreement on exchange of risk data;
  • Pre-registration of operators (AEO) and people (Commercial Travellers programme
  • in combination with a Certified Taxable Person programme);
  • Identification system by the border;
  • A Single Window with one-stop-shop-elements;
  • A Unique Consignment reference number (UCR);
  • A simplified Customs declaration system (100% electronic) with re-use of export
  • data for imports;
  • Mobile Control and Inspection Units;
  • Technical surveillance of border (CCTV, ANPR etc).

The study concludes: “It is possible to implement a Customs and Border solution that meets the requirements of the EU Customs legislation (Union Customs Code) and procedures, with expected post-Brexit volumes of cross-border people and goods, if using a combination of international standards, global best practices and state-of-the-art technology upgraded to a Smart Border 2.0 or similar solution.”
Andrew Baxter, managing director at UK-based freight forwarder Europa Worldwide Group, described the report as “sensible and positive progress” towards a workable solution.
He believes risk management solutions such as trusted trader programmes, and technology such as automatic number plate recognition, enhanced driver licences, barcode scanning and smartphone apps, are the way forward for cross-border trade after Britain leaves the EU.
“There has been a real lack of clarity to date upon what customs requirements will be post Brexit,” he said. “And whilst this is only a report, I think that it is comforting to know that the EU’s own investigation into how to handle these matters in future has come up with these conclusions.
“The UK authorities have stated over and again that they would like to see as frictionless a border as possible, so I find it hard to imagine that these conclusions would be opposed in Whitehall.
“Whilst this matter is far from concluded, it appears that we are heading in a sensible direction, and I am optimistic that we will get a sensible and efficient customs solution post Brexit,” Baxter said.

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