NAO – UK borders not ready for Brexit

The UK government’s National Audit Office (NAO) that the border force and customs may not be ready for a ‘no-deal-Brexit’ scenario.

The NAO has said that the UK customs and border authorities need to replace critical IT systems, boost border staff numbers and build new infrastructure to track goods.

Sir Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said: “Government has openly accepted the border will be suboptimal if there is no deal with the EU on 29 March 2019.

“It is not clear what suboptimal 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.”

The NAO further said that even with the transitional period that would end isn 2020 there would be ‘significant work’ required to prepare. As stands the audit body stated that 11 of 12 key projects replacing or changing border systems were at risk of not being finished to time or acceptable quality.

The new post-Brexit infrastructure that is needed to track and examine goods cannot physically be built until March, and the resources required to operate UK borders will not be ready on time. According to the NAO much of the problem lies in delays in talks and uncertainties of how the final Brexit will look like. It further warned that these gaps in security could be exploited by organised crime.

“Government’s assumption that the risks will not change materially on day one is reasonable in the short term but organised criminals and others are 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 security, law enforcement and criminal justice tools, could create security weaknesses which the government would need to address urgently.”

The Federation of Small Businesses national chairman Mike Cherry said the report was “deeply troubling”.

He added: “With less than six months before exit day, it is dreamland stuff to think that we will be anywhere near having the infrastructure needed to track and examine goods at the border.

“The likelihood is that our small business traders will face delays for goods crossing the border, while also being hit with extra costs associated to new customs arrangements and tracking requirements.”

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