Most of the IT systems needed for the UK to cope with a ‘no deal’ Brexit are at risk of not being ready on time, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).
It has said that 11 of 12 critical systems needing to be replaced or changed to manage the border are in danger of coming in late or not being of acceptable quality.
In its new report, The UK border: preparedness for EU exit, the NAO says there are serious risks to operations if there is no agreement before the deadline of 29 March. Even with a withdrawal agreement, significant challenges lie ahead to ensure the border is fully functioning.
The report includes ratings for the 12 key systems monitored by the Border Delivery Group. Only one, the Trade Remedies system run by the Department for International Trade, is broadly on track with an amber/green rating.
One other, the Automated Vehicle Licensing Verification System, receives an amber rating with the comment that it needs to be tested to ensure throughputs from the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight and Customs Declaration Service will work with it.
But eight of the systems receive amber/red ratings, indicating significant problems in the way of delivery to a short time scale, and two – for managing the movement of goods under the Common Transit Convention and for the Northern Ireland border – are rated as red.
The NAO sums up the key risks as coming down to uncertainty about or late agreement on systems requirements or design, insufficient time due to delays in legislation and policy decisions, and dependencies on other systems being ready. It also points to a lack of time to prepare businesses for change, such as in the replacement of the Trade Control and Expert System for monitoring high risk animal products.
It said that in the event of ‘no deal’ the Government has accepted that the border will be ‘less than optimal’ on day one. 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.
Head of the NAO Amyas Morse commented: “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.”
Image by Swissbert, public domain through flickr