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United Kingdom: Border Ambitions Reach Next Stage With Recommendations for the Ecosystem of Trust

The UK government published an evaluation report for the six pilot initiatives on an ‘Ecosystem of Trust’ (“EoT”) on 29 August 2023, which was first set out in the government’s 2025 UK Border strategy. Aimed at using technology to create the so called EoT around the border, the UK proposed an automated assurance and reliability model that could allow a simplification of the current customs and border processes. Such an ecosystem would be built on three pillars: technological capabilities, real time data and trusted relationships. The goal is to reduce the burden on traders and increase border efficiency by moving physical processes away from border entry points. The government partnered with six industry consortia, made up of technology firms, traders and logistics companies to test this model via its pilot, announced in 2021.

The benefits of the EoT for businesses could be significant. The government estimates that the automation of customs declarations using business documentation, when possible, would reduce customs data collection costs by 40% for industry. The estimated annual reduction could be up to 225 million GBP depending on the scale of uptake.

The EoT evaluation report includes recommendations not just for the government but also industry. Notably, industry will need to adopt digital trade document standards. The lift is much higher for the government. Border measures have already been the subject of multiple delays post-Brexit. The government now has the task of tackling:

  • the interoperability problems for unstructured data (e.g., submissions of PDFs) flagged by the pilot;
  • improved legal and governance arrangements between parties around data access, anonymisation, data interpretation, and data ownership and liabilities; and
  • developing the processes for government to accept supply chain data through the UK Single Trade Window.

Linked to the EoT is the Trusted Trader scheme, with the pilot launched by Defra on 11 September 2023, to apply specifically to Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) goods. Goods covered by the pilot are medium risk products of animal origin (POAO), and animal by-products (ABP), with applications due by October 6. Overall, the EoT aims to make improvements to existing Trusted Trader schemes (e.g., Authorised Economic Operator) to provide a more frictionless import/export process. This would also free up resources from government enforcement agencies to target more high risk operators.

The UK’s border efficiency ambitions are in good company. The US is also looking ahead at its next generation single window for trade data platform, currently in the early acquisition stages. Like the UK, the new US platform aims to increase supply chain visibility and allow faster, coordinated action before goods arrive at the border. The bottom line is improving border security and customs compliance while speeding entry for legitimate trade.