Speech: Baroness Neville-Rolfe's speech to the London Chamber of Commerce

Cabinet Office

December 5
14:24 2023

Ladies and gentlemen, its a pleasure to be here with you all today.

I feel very fortunate to be at the London Chamber of Commerce, discussing our plans for borders, in the very heart of historic London.

The City of London is, arguably, the very first border that existed on this island

a border which acted as the perimeter of a thriving Roman market.

Antiquity bequeathed these borders to the Middle Ages

and the gates throughout the City - Cripplegate, Bishopsgate, Moorgate and so on - checked which goods could enter and leave this market.

Today, this square mile is home to one of the worlds finest financial and professional service sectors

and SMEs make up ninety-eight per cent of the businesses here in the City

a number that increases to over ninety-nine percent when you look London-wide.

Many of these cross-London SMEs export and import goods whether thats the City of London gin or fashion, metal goods or gifts of all kinds.

Today I want to outline how the changes were making to our borders will benefit those - and, indeed, all - businesses.

These plans are the result of two changes coming together

namely Brexit and - importantly - a digital revolution that gives us the chance to improve how we trade.

I have been clear that we want the UK to have the most effective border in the world

and leaving the European Union presented us with an opportunity to scrutinise our entire trading system

not just the trade deals we have been able to negotiate, but the practicalities of that trading.

That potential was obvious when I visited the Thames Freeport at Tilbury the very gateway to London these days

connecting over one-hundred-and-thirty ports and sixty-five countries.

We have great aspirations for our border, one that is as minimally burdensome as possible

without compromising our security

and embracing the very latest technology to make trade smoother.

This vision is a crucial part of the Governments 2025 Border Strategy

and our new Border Target Operating Model.

It will use technology to reduce paperwork for UK importers, saving businesses over five-hundred-million pounds a year

and it will bring practical changes to the way trade is managed through our borders.

The new Model will introduce a new global risk-based system of controls.

Some of you may remember the earlier versions of the operating model

which subjected most products to costly, rigorous controls

out of proportion to their actual risk.

Well, weve thrown that out - and replaced it with a new global system which is proportionate.

It focuses on which food and plant goods currently constitute a risk, whether thats a function of the type of product or where it is from

and then assigns them a risk category that will determine what border controls are appropriate.

For instance, low risk goods - like tinned salmon or cut flowers - will not need to have health certificates or routine border checks.

For high and medium risk goods - like fresh meat and plants for planting - we will need the assurance that certificates provide along with proportionate checks on arrival.

We are also using the opportunity to harness technology and new ways of working to streamline trade.

We have partnered with industry to test the border process

to see how we can use technology to cut costs and save time.

The main breakthrough is the new UK Single Trade Window now being developed by HMRC

in collaboration with Deloitte and IBM and with support from many of you.

It underpins everything that we are working on.

When fully operational, it will provide one digital gateway for users

one where they can provide all the data needed to trade, as well as apply for licences and authorisations for trusted trader schemes.

The benefits from Single Trade Window are considerable

because it will make an enormous number of transactions that bit easier.

Our estimations show it could reduce total burdens of business by around a billion pounds in the first three years of operation.

And we are by no means ruling out introducing further innovations

in fact, were continuing to partner with industry to make this happen.

As part of the delivery of the Border Strategy, we have carried out six Ecosystem of Trust pilot projects

which found new ways that tech and data can be used to minimise trade friction.

They were a collaboration between central government departments including the Cabinet Office, Defra and the Home Office

and different industries including ports, logistics companies, and software providers and businesses like those you represent.

The first phase ran last year.

In a spirit of transparency, we have now published a full evaluation of these pilots.

The projects tested data and technologies that could provide thorough assurance to government.

We trialled Smart Seals, which can detect any unauthorised access to freight

and we trialled Smart Containers, which transmit real-time data on freight.

These show if the temperature of the cargo changed, as this would indicate that the goods might be spoiled

which means a low risk cargo might become high-risk

We also tested new ways of sharing data between government and industry

giving our frontline border staff better and earlier information about the goods that they saw coming in.

We found that this could cut the time that they spent determining which goods to check by up to a fifth.

Its a promising start, but theres still work to be done.

Today, Im also happy to detail the next phase of the Ecosystem of Trust project.

We are delivering a series of what are called Border Trade Demonstrators

which are specific projects focused on overcoming the problems we have identified together, such as the complexity and time taken when integrating industry and government systems.

They will be data-focused, allowing for simple exchanges of information between border agents and industry

leading to an easier, quicker and safer experience at the border.

Let me give you one example.

In June this year we saw a three-hundred-million-pound increase in exports of machinery

partially thanks to a large increase in these goods heading to Turkey

but what was in those shipping containers that travelled over the Mediterranean?

When these goods are shipped, the company sending them has to fill out paperwork explaining whats in the crate

theres a lot of information required, relating to the goods themselves, their value, and the route by which they will be transported

Some traders are scrupulous in their description. And some are vague.

But in all likelihood, a trader could have described a shipment of steel nuts as, simply, nuts.

Now, put yourself in the shoes of someone working at the UK border

does that description mean nuts and bolts, or cashew nuts?

Whatever your record, that opaque description means that the crate is going to get searched

and that one vague text box means an unnecessary delay.

Multiplied thousands of times a year

this will hit business efficiency and growth

and put undue pressure on our Border personnel.

One of the examples were trialling is a new piece of software

which will allow border agents to receive accurate information from the supply chain earlier in the process

including commodity codes which tell you what is actually inside a container.

Its a simple change

one so simple that its amazing it hasnt been thought of before

but one which could have huge benefits.

These Demonstrators will start being trialled early next year at specific parts of the border.

We will look to test this new approach at different locations, with different modes and moving different commodities

and, assuming they are successful, they will be spread throughout the country.

In the meantime, we in Cabinet Office are fixing existing issues where we think we can make the border work better.

When businesses told us that a new ferry link was necessary between the Spanish Vigo and Cheshires Ellesmere Port, we made sure that the Government did its job so that this route could open on time.

This ferry link directly underpins this governments support for the UK-first Green Automotive Hub

and will take an estimated 14,700 HGV movements off the roads, with a thirty percent reduction in CO2 emissions as a result.

And, possibly of interest to traders here today we will also streamline processes for goods travelling through Heathrow.

Were running a pilot with DHL, testing a simplified airfreight export customs process at Heathrow

because we were told by businesses that the current rules, for historic reasons, require freight to be driven unnecessarily all around Heathrow.

We have found a good potential way to put a stop to this

instead of items being driven to multiple different cargo sites before they leave the airport

we are now trialling one single point that cargo is stored and delivered from.

I wanted to finish by saying something about timing.

There have been stops and starts, but we are now pressing on and you do need to be ready.

Starting at the end of January

with the int

Related Articles


  1. We don't have any comments for this article yet. Why not join in and start a discussion.

Write a Comment

Your name:
Your email:

Post my comment

Recent Comments

Follow Us on Twitter

Share This

Enjoyed this? Why not share it with others if you've found it useful by using one of the tools below: