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UK government aims for tech-enabled border

A consultation has been launched to gather views on how digital approaches can improve trader and traveller demands by 2025

The UK government has launched a consultation aimed at supporting the delivery of a technology-enabled border vision over the next five years to respond to demands such as e-commerce growth and expectations from consumers.

The process seeks views on how new digital systems can improve trader and traveller experience. The government also sees an opportunity to design a more effective border as the UK transition period with the EU ends in December, with plans to operate a full, external border.

Ideas gathered through the consultation will inform a full UK border strategy to be published by the end of the year. The 2025 plan will set out the full details of how public and private sector will deliver the vision. The consultation closes on 28 August 2020.

“We will harness new technology to create a digital border, supporting businesses to import and export with ease and at low cost, and supporting our aims to bring the brightest and best talent from around the world to the UK,” said chancellor Rishi Sunak.

As well as reduction of administrative costs and risks of threats such as crime and terrorism through technology, benefits intended with the border transformation plan include improved experience for travellers with tech such as digital ID systems. The government also wants to use digital means to improve the experience of companies moving goods across the border with faster clearance.

Among the considerations outlined in the consultation document is that technology and consumer demand for speed and predictability require a change in the way borders operate. The rise in e-commerce will produce growth of about 60% in cross-border parcels in the next five years, the consultation said, so efficiency will be required to meet 72-hour global door-to-door standards expected by customers.

Also within the consultation process, the government wants to understand how it can work with the private sector and border users to innovate in the development of better border processes, systems and technology. Possibilities could include the creation of standards, application programming interfaces (APIs), as well as test-beds and other enablers of innovation.

In the public consultation document, the government mentions an intention to exploit data and automation in increasing efficiency at the border to understand any potential obstacles in using those technologies.

Still on data, the consultation will aim to gather views on opportunities to change the way data is shared across supply chains and with government to improve the operation of the border. The process will also seek to investigate how technologies for sharing and validating data will change between now and 2025 and how this will affect the overall transformation plan.

Ensuring ease of crossing the border for legitimate passengers and trade are also considered important for international firms making the investment decisions that the UK wants to attract, the consultation said.

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