Blockchain offers a post-Brexit solution b

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Following the UK’s exit from the European Union, logistics companies faced additional friction at UK borders. Therefore, calls have been made for automated digital borders, but few such systems exist. Surrey researchers have now discovered that a blockchain-based platform can improve supply chain efficiency and the development of trust at our borders.

Blockchain is a system in which a record of transactions made in bitcoin, or another cryptocurrency, is kept on multiple computers that are linked in a peer-to-peer network. The blockchain-based platform investigated in this case is known as the RFIT platform; a pilot implementation blockchain system that links data together and ensures that this data is unalterable. This end-to-end visibility of immutable data helps build trust between vendor partners.

Glenn Parry, professor of digital transformation at the University of Surrey and co-author of the study, said:

“Since the UK’s withdrawal from the EU customs union, businesses have faced increased paperwork, border delays and higher costs. A digitally managed border system that identifies trusted shipments seems like an obvious solution, but we needed to define what trust actually means and how a digital system can help.

“Supply chain actors have long recognized the importance of trust in business relationships. Trust is the main reason given by companies when supply chain relationships break down, which is especially true at customs borders. The current supply chain frictions at UK borders are being replicated around the world. The delay is caused by a lack of confidence in the flow of goods, and therefore by a need for inspection.

The Surrey academics pointed out that the introduction of this platform does not remove the need for trust and trust-building processes in established buyer-supplier relationships. It is crucial that blockchain platform providers continue to establish a position of trust with all participants.

In the case of importing wine from Australia to the UK, researchers found that the RFIT platform can use a layer of blockchain to make documentation unalterable. The platform facilitates building trust throughout the supply chain by providing a single source of validated data and increasing visibility. Reducing data asymmetry between border agencies and vendors improves accuracy, speed and integrity.

Through its UK Border Strategy 2025, the UK government seeks to establish technology leadership in reducing friction in cross-border supply chains.

Surrey visiting researcher and study co-author Mike Brookbanks said:

“The wider findings of the case study influence the UK government on how to address current challenges relating to supply chains across UK customs borders. We hope our work will also influence the government’s current focus on trusted ecosystems, as part of the Trade Single Window (STW) initiative.We believe that the use of this innovative digital technology will be the government’s first step in developing a trade platform for utilities, encouraging a wider digitization of our borders.

Note to Editors

  • Professor Glenn Parry and Mike Brookbanks are available for interview upon request
  • Read the full study here
  • Contact details for the University of Surrey media team: mediarelations@surrey.ac.uk

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