It is famously said that you cannot unbake a cake but that is what Brexit will attempt to do. In the absence of any prior experience of this process there can be no certainty about the process or its outcome. What is certain is that the change will impact the UK's international trade, logistics, supply chains and customs controls.
The nature and extent of these changes will remain uncertain for some time yet but one way to anticipate the likely impact is to cast our minds back twenty-two years to 1995 when the EU's internal border controls came down. What impact did that change have and what was life like previously?
In Ireland in particular, Brexit may herald a return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Aside from the border queues for day shoppers, one example reminds us of the subtle but profound impacts.
Most fuel oil for the Republic was distributed from a fully automated, unmanned depot located in Northern Ireland. The efficiencies made possible by the new facility were accompanied by additional customs compliance requirements in relation to excise duties. Specifically, the need arose to complete the import customs clearance declaration for the Republic of Ireland before the driver reached the border crossing point and to provide the driver with the necessary documents. Adding to the challenge, the fuel tankers would fill at the depot during the night when the customs post at the border was operating a limited service.
A solution was devised whereby the depot management system issued a real-time message confirming the departure of the fuel tanker from the depot. This message was used as a trigger for sending the order details from SAP to CustomsWare which created the declaration message and submitted it to the Irish Revenue. The clearance details received were then returned to SAP, also as an XML message. In turn, the clearance routing and reference were then relayed to the driver's mobile phone as a text message, while en route to the border crossing point. The driver could then transcribe the details onto pro forma SAD paperwork for presentation at the border post.
The consistency of the electronic process in turn lead to further process simplification being agree with the customs authorities. These process changes delivered additional business benefits in reduced time, cost and effort, while achieving consistent and demonstrable compliance.
In the same way that motorists refuelling at the station forecourt were oblivious to the mechanics of the supply chain that ensured that the tanks were kept full, many businesses are oblivious of the impact that Brexit will have on their business. As a start, think back...