Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the customs organization of the United Kingdom, has said it will be postponing its work on a blockchain pilot program— instituted September of last year—until after the United Kingdom severs ties with the European Union.
In the Q&A section on Parliament’s website, MP Eddie Hughes asked if the government plans to use blockchain for customs systems following Brexit. Hughes also requested an update on the proof of concept trials that had already taken place.
Financial secretary to the treasury, MP Mel Stride, answered Hughes by explaining that the project involved the development of a permissioned blockchain which could be used to inform a trader’s “Authorized Economic Operator” status (AEO).
AEO is an “internationally recognized quality mark” that gives quicker access to some custom procedures, and in some cases, the right to ‘fast-track’ shipments through customs. Stride went on to add:
“The proof of concept ran for six weeks, and established that government could use blockchain to securely share the results of sensitive risk checks to improve the efficiencies of certain customs processes.”
However, Stride also mentioned:
“Any significant implementation of blockchain would require significant further work by HMRC. Further work on the application of Blockchain to ‘Authorised Economic Operator’ status is deferred until after the UK leaves the EU when timescales and cost will be revisited.”
Initially, the blockchain pilot program seemed to be aimed at using blockchain to make the border technologically ready for when Brexit was to happen.
Interim chief digital and information officer Mike Potter of the HMRC said back in September of 2017:
“We have now built a proof of concept based on blockchain that demonstrates that you can actually get all of the 28 organisations [of the EU] that act at the border to coordinate all of their risk and intervention, so we only do it once, and we do it well.”
It would appear that even in regards to political decisions being made, Brexit is dragging its feet heading towards the March. 29 deadline. Initially, the initiative was supposed to prepare the UK for a new set of customs rulings.
Even outside of the blockchain proof of concept, other important decisions are being postponed because of Brexit, including citizens’ rights of residence and the border with Ireland.