Despite claims by the UK government that technology can provide a ‘non-visible’ border between the UK and Ireland border post Brexit, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee is unable to find any existing technology that would do so.
A new report from Westminster’s Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has discovered that little progress has been made in identifying the technology which the government says can provide solve the problem of a ‘frictionless’ UK/EU border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The secretary of state for exiting the European Union, David Davis, has said he is “confident that ‘the most up-to-date technology’ can ensure the border remains non-visible and as light-touch as it is today.”
Technology Remains Aspirational
However, the report states: “We heard numerous proposals for how regulatory and customs compliance measures could be enacted away from the border using tools such as joint policing, mobile patrols, risk analysis, cameras and digital customs declarations,”
“We have, however, had no visibility of any technical solutions, anywhere in the world, beyond the aspirational, that would remove the need for physical infrastructure at the border.”
The committee goes on to say that from the evidence it has seen, technology “is best seen as an aid to, rather than a substitute for, manual, visible and physical border management.”
An example is the Sweden-Norway border, where a fully electronic system helps to share information across the two countries. Despite this people still have to be stopped and vehicles X-rayed.
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee chair, Andrew Murrison, said: “Everyone agrees that the border after Brexit must look and feel as it does today.
“However, we have heard no evidence to suggest that there is currently a technical solution that would avoid infrastructure at the border. Furthermore, we have no detail on how checks on goods and people will be undertaken away from the border.”
Because it has seen “no evidence to suggest that, right now, an invisible border is possible”, the committee has called on the government to ensure that the two-year implementation period, suggested by the Prime Minister, is used to develop the right solutions.
Implementation Not Possible Before Withdrawal
The report concludes: “The government’s proposals for technical solutions represent blue sky thinking, but it will not have time to implement anything substantial before withdrawal day,”
“During the implementation period, we recommend that the government works closely with its counterparts in Ireland and the EU to develop an innovative border system capable of delivering customs compliance without traditional physical infrastructure at the border.”