UK border levy could fund passport-queue-cutting technology
A £10 charge could be levied on visitors to the UK from abroad in order to fund new technology to avoid the need for a hard Irish border and increase the ease of doing business after Brexit, a think-tank has said.
The Reform think-tank said the fee would be in line with US charges for international visitors and could raise up to £450m a year, equivalent to 80 per cent of the Border Force budget.
The money could go towards harnessing technology to cut queues at passport control to just 15 seconds while ensuring customs checks on goods entering the country take 12 minutes rather than six hours.
It comes after Brexit Secretary David Davis said the UK will leave the tariff-free EU customs union by March 2019, when Brexit is due to be complete.
The government’s intention to leave the customs union in order to strike free-trade deals around the world has sparked fears that border checks could come into force between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and warnings that such checks could damage businesses.
Ministers have said they would like to maintain “frictionless” customs arrangements and Reform said technology can deliver this objective.
For travellers, the focus should be on making human interactions redundant, with cameras confirming a visitor’s exit from their departure country, a smartphone app sharing their travel status once they board a plane, and their entry to the UK through an e-gate following pre-clearance for arrival.
Similar technology in the Netherlands enables people to pass through border control in 15 seconds, while the UK Border Force currently aims to process new arrivals within 45 minutes, the think-tank said.
Pressure on UK customs can be eased by shipping firms sharing information on cargo before arrival while in-built sensors can track the movement of containers and the condition of livestock and food, the think-tank added.
Such an approach could also boost tax by accurately identifying foods entering the country, making more money available to the government, the report said.
Britain could also adopt technology used at the port of Rotterdam, where artificial intelligence reads X-rays of suspect cargo, taking 3.5 seconds as opposed to 10 minutes for humans.
Alexander Hitchcock, report co-author, said: “Technology can remove any fear of a return to a hard border between the UK and Ireland, while increasing ease of doing business.
“This will go a long way to fulfil the government’s aim of a ‘truly global’ Britain following Brexit.”
Last year the government considered using drones to monitor the Irish border after Brexit.