Government departments are assuming that the risks to managing the border will not change immediately when the UK leaves the EU, and that border checks will therefore be the same after March 2019 as they were before. They are therefore not planning for any major new physical infrastructure at the border by March 2019, and do not expect all new or updated IT systems to be ready by that date. Departments say they are planning for a no-deal scenario, but do not expect there to be many changes whatever the position in March 2019. We are very concerned that their assumptions are risky and do not allow for changes in behaviours by companies trading across the border or people crossing it. Particularly in the event of a no-deal scenario, the border could be exposed to risks on day 1 of the UK’s departure. Officials are relying too much on there being a transitional period in order to have the time to develop the new systems and infrastructure that may be required. The current negotiations bring significant uncertainty, but the new Border Planning Group (the Group) and government departments need to step up and be prepared for the possibility of a no-deal scenario and for the costs of all potential options. It is worrying that we were told that the Group could not plan for any challenges around the Irish border and the 300 crossing points, as it needed the political process to go further before it could fully understand the issue.
5 December 2017