The European Commission is running a workstream to terminate UK access to its databases and IT systems when the country leaves the EU, if no continued access is agreed.
It has revealed the plan, along with an indication of the implications for customs authorities, in its official communication on EU preparations for Brexit, published yesterday.
The document emphasises that there is no certainty that an agreement will be reached on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal, but says it will be in “a fundamentally different situation” and outlines a number of workstreams on which the EU has embarked.
One of these highlights a practical aspect and involves “the disconnection and adaptation of databases and IT systems and other platforms for communication and information exchange to with the UK should no longer have access”.
This comes in sharp contrast to the elements of the paper published by the UK Government last week on its Brexit preparations. It pointed to a number of areas – such as market surveillance and the exchange of criminal records – in which it aims to retain UK access to systems and databases.
The Government has an underlying appreciation of the benefits of maintaining the connections, but is working on this as an aspiration that has not yet been agreed by the EU.
The European Commission document also points to EU customs authorities’ reliance on joined up IT systems, and says a process has began to ensure the appropriate changes can be made by the EU and member states to reflect the UK’s leaving.
Worries over the preparedness of UK customs systems for the departure have emerged in reports by the National Audit Office and Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee. In April, chief executive of HM Revenue & Customs Jon Thompson said that systems would be ready in time for the UK departure in April 2019.
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