Could blockchain save Brexit?

Leading academic suggests blockchain technology may provide answers to the Irish border problem

UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s unrelenting headache over the Irish border could be eased by blockchain, it has been claimed.

As European leaders continue to stonewall the UK’s Brexit plans over the Irish backstop, one of the country’s leading blockchain influencers believes the technology underpinning cryptocurrency could solve the problem.

The sprawling 310-mile border from Lough Foyle to Carlingford Lough has been a contentious issue over attempts to reach a Brexit agreement with the UK’s counterparts across the European Union.

Both the UK and the EU want the current ‘soft border’ to remain, and Theresa May has tabled a contentious backstop agreement thereby allowing the border to stay open. However, once the UK departs from the customs union and the single market, maintaining an open border will become an almost impossible task.

Beyond Brexit, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will fall under separate regulatory and customs administrations, meaning goods crossing the border in any direction will need to be inspected.

Stumbling block

However, as unveiled in a Coin Rivet article for the Daily Express, the continuous stumbling block of the backstop could be overcome by blockchain technology, according to Professor Sally Eaves – one of the UK’s leading influencers and academic spearheads behind blockchain.

“Emergent technology combinations including Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR), GPS, and blockchain have been raised as potential solutions to avoiding the persistent Brexit backstop conundrum,” she told express.com.

“Most notably, employing blockchain does raise the possibility for non-disruptive digital recording and monitoring of the movement of goods without the need to breach the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

“This can enable traceability, stability, auditability, immutability, and customs compliance, and potentially reduced reconciliation too.”

The Bristol-based blockchain boffin does, however, stress that key issues do need to be considered before contemplating the technology as a potential solution.

“Firstly, in defining what exactly the border should ‘look like’ and agreeing what blockchain should be transparently monitoring and updating,” she explained.

“Ensuring awareness and education around what blockchain is and how it works is also critical – without this, fear, misunderstanding, and confusion could be anticipated, negating the very pursuit of frictionless cross-border trade.”

Critical

“The time factor remains critical, given the likely tight timescales for delivery and lack of precedent, alongside historic high rates of IT project failure or scope creep in the public sector.”

There are, as Prof Eaves points out, some limitations with blockchain technology. But with the use of integrated solutions, creating a workable open border is entirely possible.

“We need to keep in mind what blockchain and integrated technology solutions can and cannot track,” she added.

“For example, how to deal with unchecked goods lacking manifests and managing the threat of illegal smuggling where barcodes, tags, and scanning is absent by design.

“This is particularly the case given the length and type of terrain in question, with multiple informal crossing points.”

 

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