Digital services central to plans for post-Brexit border

Policy paper provides update on work on online tools

By Sam Trendall

12 Oct 2020

The UK’s post-Brexit border will rely on a range of digital services for those transporting goods into or out of the country.

The government has this week published an updated version of its Border Operating Model policy paper – a 138-page document that sets out plans for importing and exporting goods to and from the EU once the Brexit transition period concludes.

The overview provides a progress report on the development of an array of online tools that will be essential to border operations. 

From July next year, goods imported from the 27 remaining member states will require full customs declarations and the payment of any necessary levies. This means ports must offer one or both of a temporary storage model – in which goods are held while checks are completed – or a pre-lodgement model, in which importers can use the new Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS) IT system to pre-emptively make declarations online.

GVMS has been developed by HM Revenue and Customs, and the intention is that the platform will allow the tax agency to track declared goods throughout their journey. Hauliers transporting goods to ports using the pre-lodgement model must – prior to arriving at their port of departure – use the platform to provide their registration information and a movement reference number.

“This information will be assessed during the crossing to the UK and the person in control of the goods will be notified if they are clear to proceed on their journey or require a check,” the policy paper said.

It added: “The GVMS will allow: declaration references to be linked together so that the person moving the goods… only has to present one single reference at the frontier to prove that their goods have pre-lodged declarations; the linking of the movement of the goods to declarations, enabling the automatic arrival in HMRC systems as soon as goods board so that declarations can be processed en route; [and] notification of the risking outcome of declarations (i.e. cleared or uncleared) in HMRC systems to be sent to the person in control of the goods by the time they physically arrive so they know where they need to proceed to.”

The paper outlines that the GVMS platform should be operational by January.

For UK traders exporting goods that require an export health certificate – which includes livestock and animal produce – the government has created a the EHCO digital platform. The tool, developed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in conjunction with the Animal and Plant Health Agency, will allow businesses to complete the process of applying for a certificate online. 

The web form will replace a process that currently requires businesses to fill out and return a PDF document. 

EHCO is already up and running for many certificates, and the government intends that it be available for all applications – including those for non-EU countries – by “early 2021”. 

The policy paper also outlines the government’s intention to digitise more border processes into the future, including online authorisation for visitors arriving in the UK.

“Our future border system will protect the public and enhance prosperity,” the document said. “Investment in border processes, biometrics and technology will result in a border that operates with a fully digital end-to-end customer journey, improving both security and the passage of legitimate travellers through the border. As part of this phased programme to 2025, the government will introduce an Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme as part of plans to ensure that all those coming to the UK have permission to do so in advance of travel. Further details of these arrangements will be provided in due course.”

The Brexit transition period is due to end on 31 December.

Sam Trendall is the editor of Civil Service World's sister title PublicTechnology, where this article was first published.

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