UK will invest £705m to create 'world’s most effective border'

14 July 2020

The UK government has announced a £705m investment in border infrastructure to create the “world’s most effective border” as the Brexit transition period finishes at the end of the year.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told MPs the government was investing £705m to improve UK borders. The new funding is set to include £470m to build the port and inland infrastructure needed to ensure compliance with new customs procedures and controls. 

The government said it was taking “exceptional action” to build new border infrastructure inland where there is no space at ports. 

It also covers a £235m investment in staffing and technology, including £100m to develop HM Revenue and Customs systems to reduce the burden on traders and £15m to build new data infrastructure to enhance border management and flow. 

An additional £10m will be spent on recruiting 500 more Border Force personnel and £20m on new equipment.

“It will assist the smooth movement of goods, and it will also help us to lay the foundations for the world’s most effective border by 2025, making our country more secure and our citizens safer,” Gove said. 

Alongside the investment, Gove unveiled the Border Operating Model which outlines the new border controls which will be introduced in three stages, partially due to coronavirus and to give firms more time to adjust. 

The model aims to provide clarity about the end-to-end journeys of goods on the move between Great Britain and the EU, including information about controlled goods and the new government systems that will support future trade.

The Border Operating Model “does not cover matters relating specifically to the Northern Ireland Protocol”, Gove added. 

Alex Veitch, head of international policy at the Freight Transport Association, welcomed the announcement but called for a Brexit deal with the EU. “It is good to have confirmation of a large proportion of the detail of how goods will move between the UK and EU,” he said.

“However, logistics businesses are also urging the government to continue pursuing a deal with their EU counterparts as an urgent priority. This will to make it simpler to trade, ensure trucks and planes from the UK have access to the EU, and minimise economic disruption. Logistics is committed to making the new relationship with the EU work – we now need government to do the same and strike a deal.” 

Meanwhile, professional services firm GHD has highlighted the need for contingency planning at ports due to increasing risks and challenges such as the growth of international trade, the impact of climate change and the introduction of new technologies.

Matt East, senior advisor, logistics and infrastructure policy, and Keith Brown, executive advisor of asset management, said: “Now, more than ever, port operators need to account for isolated, disruptive events that have the potential to impact not only their operations but also their profitability, as supply chains across the world are affected.”

They said the first step to developing an effective contingency plan was to assess existing business operations to “identify the inputs, decision points, processes, information and connections that produce the outputs and outcomes” as system weaknesses stem from gaps within these areas. 

Another common problem was having a hierarchy structure in place that does not operate effectively during disruption, for example “one that doesn’t allow for rapid decisions to be made in order to achieve an effective outcome”. 

East and Brown recommended contingency plan must also incorporate a testing and monitoring process which may include a mock run-through of an emergency event. 

“A mock test is particularly important, given that some of the scenarios being planned for may only occur once within our lifetime. However, we must be confident that the intended response will be effective and achieve the goals.”

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