30th October 2018
The NAO has published its report on The UK Border: Preparedness for EU exit.
The report found that there are risks to UK border operations if the UK leaves the EU without an agreement on 29 March 2019. Even with a withdrawal agreement, significant challenges lie ahead to ensure the UK border is fully functioning.
Border management is fundamentally important to national security, effective trade, tourism, well-managed migration, healthy communities and the environment. Delivering an effective border after the UK leaves the EU is an enormous challenge, requiring significant coordination across government and with private sector organisations. Government is heavily dependent on third parties, such as traders, making changes to their systems, behaviours and complying with new processes. Government papers from July 2018 stated that it was already too late to ensure that all traders were properly prepared for ‘no deal’.
The creation of the Border Delivery Group has improved central government's understanding of the changes that need to be put in place at the border and focused efforts across departments. Although the government has achieved much and its planning efforts have increased in momentum, given the scale of the task, there are inevitably gaps and risks to its progress.
Many of the changes needed to be made by government under a ‘no deal’ scenario may not be ready on time. In particular:
Planning for border operations in the event of a deal is less developed than that for no deal because of the ongoing uncertainty regarding the nature of the future relationship between the UK and the EU. If an agreement between the UK and the EU is reached, departments expect there to be little immediate change at the border. Yet, introducing new border arrangements will involve a large amount of work both leading up to and beyond the end of the implementation period.
The report may be shared on your own communications channels, with your own stakeholders and with colleagues that would find it of interest. For more information please visit www.nao.org.uk.