Saturday, October 31, 2020

Firms face weeks of bugs after launch of Brexit border app

Sep 18. 2020
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By Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg · Joe Mayes · BUSINESS, WORLD, TECHNOLOGY, US-GLOBAL-MARKETS, EUROPE 

Businesses handling billions of pounds of exports risk having to grapple with bugs in the U.K.'s key border IT system for weeks after it launches at the end of this year.

The government expects it will have to fix technical problems with the system, which will allow truckers to check if they have the correct papers to cross the border, until the end of January, according to an official document seen by Bloomberg News. It anticipates making essential updates to the system as late as March.

There will be a "regular release of minor and essential updates based on live feedback and testing" until then, according to the briefing note. "We will continue to discuss with stakeholders whether further changes need to be made as a result of that feedback and make further tweaks if required."

It's a sign of how the rush to prepare Britain's border for the return of full customs checks on Dec. 31 risks disruption and delays. Avoiding border chaos when the Brexit transition period ends is a top priority for Boris Johnson's government, which fears major traffic queues and widespread disruption to corporate supply chains.

Earlier this week, Britain's largest logistics trade group, Logistics U.K., criticized the state of the government's preparations, saying it was a "crushing disappointment" the new IT system wouldn't be fully tested and stable until April.

"To find out, with only 14 weeks to go, that there will not be a ready, workable solution for those moving goods to the EU is a massive blow to U.K. businesses and the economy," said Elizabeth de Jong, the group's director of policy.

The U.K.'s "Check an HGV is Ready to Cross the Border" web service will be made available as a demo in October, and will then become fully operational in December, the document said.

The government is also building special Brexit lorry parks to hold trucks that don't have the right documentation, and is planning to fine drivers up to 300 pounds ($388) if they attempt to drive to a channel port like Dover without the correct papers.

Crucially, the measures will be needed regardless of the outcome of ongoing trade talks between the U.K. and EU. Even with a free-trade agreement, the U.K. will be outside the EU's customs union and therefore goods crossing the border will need customs declarations.

Asked about the government's Brexit planning on Wednesday, Johnson said a "huge amount of work" is being done to keep trade flowing smoothly from January.

"I believe we will get through it," the prime minister told a panel of lawmakers in Parliament. "Of course there may be difficulties, but we will get through it very well."

On Thursday, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove met with representatives of the freight and logistics industry to discuss their concerns. The Road Haulage Association, one of the groups present, described the meeting as a "washout."

"I was hopeful that today's meeting would result in a mutually effective co-operation," Richard Burnett, chief executive officer of the RHA, said in an e-mailed statement. "Sadly, this hasn't happened, and there is still no clarity regarding the questions that we have raised. Although I don't think we're quite back at square one, we're certainly not much further ahead."


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