Building a smarter border
Software solutions

Building a smarter border

Hard Brexit or no Brexit, the future of borders between European states and elsewhere are likely headed for a major shift toward higher technologies.

There are few borders anywhere as interconnected as that of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Trade between the two is worth more than $2.8 billion and a large number of businesses and jobs are reliant on it. There are more than 200 crossing points along the 310-mile expanse and it’s estimated that more than 170,000 trucks and 250,000 light commercial vehicles cross each month.

That adds up to a major impact from Brexit. A recent report funded by the European Parliament's Policy Department for Citizens' Rights and Constitutional Affairs estimates that a hard Brexit would not only cost $488.9 million but result in:

  • Delays of 30-60 minutes for trucks and 10-20 minutes for cars.
  • Documentation and compliance costs associated with trading across borders would rise between 2 percent and 24 percent of the cost of goods.
  • And complying with certificate origin requirements that would add over $450 to the cost of shipping goods across the border, depending on shipment.

The report with a lengthy name, ‘Smart Border 2.0: Avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland for Customs control and the free movement of persons,’ goes a long way to conclude that Ireland and Northern Ireland would almost certainly have to turn to so-called smart border technologies to stem what could be enormous loses for their economies post Brexit, no matter what form it takes.

‘’There have been significant developments around the world in creating ‘smart borders’ that bring together international standards and best practices and new technologies to create low-friction borders that support the fast and secure movement of persons and goods,’’ the report says.

‘’Standards and best practices such as domestic and cross-border coordinated border management as well as trusted trader and trusted traveler programs can significantly reduce compliance requirements and make borders almost friction free. Customs and other border control practices that keep the border open, such as release before clearance, deferred duty payments and clearance away from the border, also help keep the border free of traffic and speed up or even remove the need for processing.’’

Mark Brannan, International Business Development Director at AEB, says a hard border would undoubtedly change the business environment for companies on either side.

‘’A hard border would inevitably result in a greater administrative burden for traders including the requirement to make customs declarations for goods crossing the border,’’ he said.

Geoff Taylor, general manager of our operations in the UK, said everyone should expect an increase in the physical inspections of goods. 

''Many traders will need to adapt to a new business environment – whilst there are already some checks (e.g. for livestock transported across the Irish Sea), customs declarations and physical checks of goods will be completely new to many traders,'' he said.

Brannan added that leaning on technology to solve border problems after Brexit could prove difficult for the governments involved.

‘’The physical and technological infrastructure required to support a hard border is simply not currently available,’’  Brannan said. ‘’And given the general lack of UK preparedness for Brexit it seems unlikely that the UK will be able to make the resources and technical infrastructure available in time to support fast and secure trade across a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. ‘’

If the UK, Ireland or other nations need an example of how to create  high-tech crossings it could look to Sweden and Norway, two nations that have a 1,000 mile border between them. It now allows for, among other things, automated customs declarations, a communications system where 1,300 customs officers can coordinate security, scanners that x-ray trucks randomly picked for inspection, and a license plate recognition system that alerts border patrols of suspicious vehicles. Long-term the plan is to allow for nearly all customs work to be automated to the point where trucks at the border can simply be scanned and waved across.

Brannan's advice to traders on either side of the Irish border is simple: plan for a hard Brexit now.

‘’This includes: reviewing their supply chain, reviewing contracts with suppliers/customers, applying for an EORI number (if not already in place), and reviewing software solutions to support with cross-border trade,’’ he said.

 ‘’AEB can support traders with many aspects of cross-border trade, but our import filing and export self-filing as well as our broker integration solutions are at the heart of a best-in-class cross-border solution.’’