The UK border: preparedness for EU exit

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Series Details 24.10.18
Publication Date 24/10/2018
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The United Kingdom's National Audit Office (NAO) published a report called The UK border: preparedness for EU exit on the 24 October 2018. The report said that there were risks to UK border operations if the UK left the EU without an agreement on 29 March 2019. Even with a withdrawal agreement, significant challenges lay ahead to ensure the UK border was fully functioning.

Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said 'Government has openly accepted the border will be sub-optimal if there is no deal with the EU on 29 March 2019. It is not clear what sub-optimal means in practice, or how long this will last. But what is clear is that businesses and individuals who are reliant on the border running smoothly will pay the price'.

Further information

Border management was fundamentally important to national security, effective trade, tourism, well-managed migration, healthy communities and the environment. Delivering an effective border after the UK left the EU was an enormous challenge, requiring significant coordination across government and with private sector organisations.

The creation of the Border Delivery Group had improved central government’s understanding of the changes that needed to be put in place at the border and focused efforts across departments. Although the government had achieved much and its planning efforts had increased in momentum, given the scale of the task, there were inevitably gaps and risks to its progress.

Ongoing political uncertainty and delays in negotiations had hampered the effectiveness of departments’ border planning and delivery. This had reduced the time available to plan and implement new border regimes that might be required.

Government was heavily dependent on third parties, such as traders, making changes to their systems, behaviours and complying with new processes. Government papers from July 2018 stated that it was already too late to ensure that all traders were properly prepared for ‘no deal’.

Many of the changes needed to be made by government under a ‘no deal’ scenario may not be ready on time.

In the event of day one of ‘no deal’ the government had accepted that the border would be ‘less than optimal’. This might include delays for goods crossing the border, increased opportunities for tax and regulatory non-compliance, and less information to inform checks of people crossing the border. Government was putting in place coping responses where it can. It had decided to prioritise safety and security; the flow of people and goods; and then compliance activity, including the collection of revenue, in the short term. Contingency plans were also being prepared with the aim of managing potential issues such as queues of traffic in Kent, and the continued supplies of essential goods and medicines.

The NAO’s report warned that organised criminals and others were likely to be quick to exploit any perceived weaknesses or gaps in the enforcement regime. This, combined with the UK’s potential loss of access to EU law enforcement and national security tools, could create security weaknesses which the government would need to address urgently.

Further related NAO reports can be accessed here.

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Related Links
United Kingdom: Department for Exiting the European Union: Collection, August-October 2018: Technical Notices: Contingency Plans for a No deal Brexit. How to prepare if the UK leaves the EU with no deal
UK: Parliament: House of Commons: Committees: Public Accounts Committee: News, 24.10.18: Brexit: Time running out for businesses to prepare
ESO: In Focus: Brexit - The United Kingdom and the European Union
BBC News, 24.10.18: UK 'will pay the price' of no-deal Brexit
The Guardian, 24.10.18: Brexit could lead to security threat at border, says watchdog
Politico 24.10.18: Borders won’t be ready for no-deal Brexit, UK watchdog warns
UK: GOV.UK: NAO: Topic: Exiting the EU
Senior European Experts: Paper, July 2018: Brexit: UK Border Management Issues
United Kingdom: National Audit Office: Policy Paper, October 2017: The UK border. Issues and challenges for government’s management of the border in light of the UK’s planned departure from the European Union

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