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The UK’s finance minister Philip Hammond thinks he may have found an answer to the issue of trade across the Irish border after Brexit takes place: tracking cross-border trade with blockchain.
At the Conservative party conference in Birmingham, Hammond said that despite his lack of expertise in the area, blockchain seemed to be the ”obvious” choice of technology to manage the Irish border once Great Britain leaves the European Union and, as Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal looks now, also the EU Customs Union.
The border is a particularly intricate issue in the Brexit dealings as it resembles many inter-state borders in the EU in being both inconspicuous, and having 200 public roads crossing into Northern Ireland. The free passage of people has been allowed since 1923 and of goods since 1993, but leaving the EU customs union means that some form of border controls would need to be established.
Blockchain could be seen as part of a solution to the issue, as it would enable the relevant government departments to track the movement of goods in a transparent, immutable, and non-invasive way. Similar logistics projects have sprung up over the globe in the last few years, including one such service from computer technology giant IBM and a sustainable sugarcane project looking to track sugar cane entering Australia.
Irish academics are on board with the idea, with the National University of Ireland (NUI) publishing a report earlier this year calling on the government to promote blockchain in Ireland. NUI offers several ways that awareness and adoption of blockchain can be encouraged in Ireland while arguing that this will enable economic growth.
As a leading nation in blockchain technology, the UK’s reputation in the field would also benefit from such a large, state-run project such as that proposed by Hammond.
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