What is the UK Government’s “Ecosystem of Trust” Model?

The UK government recently announced their intention to trial an ‘Ecosystem of Trust’ model for the UK border. The aim is to create a secure and streamlined process for moving goods in and out of the UK by utilising new technology and developing transparent relationships between stakeholders.

In this article, we explore the plans and the possible impact they could have.

The Ecosystem of Trust

The government set out plans for the Ecosystem of Trust model in the 2025 UK Border Strategy. The intention behind the plan is to use technology and real-time data sharing to create a robust system that is much less reliant on enforcement at the border, increasing the flow of goods in and out of the UK.

By creating a stream of verifiable data, the government hopes to build up systemic trust between compliant traders and official bodies. This will be achieved through a defined data set that businesses can easily supply digitally. The plans also include the potential use of technology such as geolocation and digital seals to prevent tampering and other security breaches, reducing the need for disruptive checks at the border.

These measures would free up enforcement agencies which would no longer need to concentrate resources on manual checks. The model would also make life far more straightforward for legitimate traders who would be able to take advantage of a simplified customs declarations process and a much smoother experience at the border.

The plan is closely related to the government’s commitment to creating a Single Trade Window: a system where traders will only have to submit information once through a universal portal, rather than having to contact several agencies. Connecting all stakeholders in a unified network should cut down on the administrative overheads for traders and officials alike.

The Pilot

The government intends to test the viability and scalability of the Ecosystem of Trust with an end-to-end pilot program during 2022. Among the stated aims for this pilot are:

  • to explore the different technologies and supply chain options currently available,
  • to examine the benefits for both the public and private sectors,
  • to investigate the potential costs involved for all stakeholders,
  • to  establish what changes and requirements would be necessary to expand the model to include the entire border,
  • to establish whether the industry would welcome such a model.

The pilot consists of several projects, each led by a consortium of businesses and organisations with industry expertise. Six consortia have been chosen in total and they are headed by Azarc, Chainvine, IBM & Maersk, Fujitsu, Palantir, and the Institute of Export and International Trade.

The schemes will run until late 2022, with the consortia working with border staff and relevant government departments. The data gathered during the pilot will then be used to inform the next steps.

Possible impact

The Ecosystem of Trust as envisaged by the government could have positive benefits for traders, consumers, and the UK as a whole. It would bring the country in line with those nations who are already using technology in similar ways, facilitating new trading partnerships and opening up the possibility for worldwide trusted trader programs. As one of the leading trust marks in the world, this would likely be tied to AEO status. 

For traders, it would mean a more straightforward import/export experience and significantly less time spent on administration. Many of the compliance activities currently undertaken by enforcement agencies could be managed by businesses and their customs brokers, keeping the regulation mostly within their reservations. It would also make it possible to expand the government’s current trusted trader programs and the benefits they offer.

There are also potential advantages for consumers. With the administrative overheads and costs being reduced for traders, it’s hoped that a substantial saving can be passed onto the customer. A frictionless border could also mean faster shipping times and a greater variety of goods on offer due to new global trading partnerships.

What do you need to do about the Ecosystem of Trust?

Currently, there is nothing to do unless you are a part of the pilot scheme. Following the scheme’s completion, the if, how, and when the model will be adopted is still uncertain. The results of the pilot schemes will offer greater clarity about the viability and scalability of the plans. If you need help with customs clearance, contact us for more information.


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