Blockchain Project Delayed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) Until Brexit Concludes

Distributed ledger technology has been a point of interest for the United Kingdom Parliament lately, as the authority investigates its potential use of customs needs.

Urged by the Q&A section of the website, MP (member of parliament) Eddie Hughes had pondered if the government plans to implement blockchain technology when the UK finally departs from Europe. Hughes asked this question in combination with request for an update on a trial that the Parliament had formerly announced.

In a new statement from the Parliament on February 7th, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) announced that the work on the blockchain project that they had begun would have to wait until Brexit is over. Answering the questions from Hughes, MP Mel Stride explained that the project would involve a permissioned blockchain. This blockchain would “be used to inform a trader’s ‘Authorised Economic Operator’ status.”

Furthermore, the financial secretary to the U.K. Treasury added that the planned trial would take six weeks and it

“established that government could use Blockchain to securely share the results of sensitive risk checks to improve the efficiencies of certain customs processes.”

Additional work on this trial is going to require participation and effort from HMRC, so the process is presently postponed. It will not resume “until after the U.K. leaves the EU when timescales and cost will be revisited.” It is likely that the work would be a part of the trading initiative of the Future Borders Programme, though their primary focus is presently Brexit.

The first annoucement that blockchain technology could be integrated into customs was in September 2017 by HMRC, though it looks like the original plan had been separate from Brexit. At the time, blockchain technology was supposed to ready the border for the departure of the UK, since the customs division will be responsible for five times the declarations that it has now.

In June 2016, the vote was cast, and UK citizens expressed their hopes of leaving the EU. The vote was in favor of the departure, which is set to commence officially on March 29th, 2019. Still, there are many issues that citizens have yet to clearly find a solution to with their own borders, like trading, rights of residence for citizens, and how to handle the shared border with Ireland.

The United States has also launched a blockchain test through Customs and Border Protection to see how the technology would fare with the shipment tracking system.

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