Topic: Innovation Politics and tech companies have a strained relationship at best. When they need a few cheap headlines, politicians will cheerfully bash tech companies for doing things like offering encrypted communications services — while their colleagues use those very same services.

But then, when they want to look visionary, or simply don’t have a real answer, politicians will make glib mention of cutting-edge technology and how it will solve otherwise intractable problems. The UK government’s White Paper on Brexit, published this week, is an excellent example. Key to the smooth working of the proposed post-Brexit trade agreement is a new (and currently entirely theoretical) customs arrangement.

Under this plan, when goods reach the UK, companies will have to pay UK tariffs if the goods are destined for the UK and EU tariffs — which might be higher or lower — if they are going further into Europe. If the final destination is unclear, then the higher tax is paid and then reclaimed.

All of this is complicated enough, and the paper acknowledges that a “phased approach to implementation of this model” will be required. Which is wise, considering the sorts of technologies the government has in mind.

“This could include exploring how machine learning and artificial intelligence could allow traders to automate the collection and submission of data required for customs declarations. This could also include exploring how allowing data sharing across borders, including potentially the storing of the entire chain of transactions for each goods consignment, while enabling that data to be shared securely between traders and across relevant government departments, could reduce the need for repeated input of the same data, and help to combat import and export fraud.” Read more from…

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