The 310-mile border from Lough Foyle to Carlingford Lough has been a contentious issue over attempts to reach a Brexit agreement with other EU governments.
Theresa May has tabled a backstop agreement – thereby allowing the border to stay open.
Both the UK and the EU want the current ‘soft border’ to remain.
However, once the UK leaves the customs union and the single market, maintaining an open border will prove extremely difficult.
Post-Brexit, both parts of Ireland will be under separate regulatory and customs administrations meaning goods crossing the border in any direction will need to be inspected.
However, 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 of 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.co.uk.
“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 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.
“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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