Organised crime groups set to exploit no-deal Brexit

Organised crime groups are poised to take advantage of a possible no-deal Brexit that could leave the UK’s borders vulnerable to fraud, smuggling and criminal activity, according to the National Audit Office (NAO).

Oct 16, 2019
By Tony Thompson

In a report published on Wednesday (October 16), the NAO warned it was likely that organised criminals and others “would quickly exploit any perceived weaknesses, gaps or inconsistencies in the enforcement regime”.

The NAO said the Government has acknowledged that the operation of the border would be “less than optimal” in the event of no deal.

“This could include delays for goods crossing the border, increased opportunities for tax and regulatory non-compliance and less information to inform checks of people crossing the border,” it added.

“The Government does not have enough time to put in place all of the infrastructure, systems and people required for a fully-effective border on day one of no deal.”

The NAO estimates that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Collections could see an increase of 220 million customs declarations annually, leaving authorities overwhelmed and allowing organised crime groups and illegally trafficked goods to slip through more easily.

“It is impossible to know exactly what would happen at the border in the event of no deal on 31 October 2019,” the report said. “Departments face new challenges in monitoring and responding to any disruption that may ensue. This includes… mitigating risks of the border becoming vulnerable to fraud, smuggling or other criminal activity.”

Earlier this year, the NAO called for more consistent government funding for law enforcement to better tackle the estimated 4,500 organised crime groups operating across the country.

However, continuing uncertainty surrounding how Britain will leave the EU has prompted the NAO’s concerns about the implications for the country’s safety in the coming years.

“Despite their efforts, significant risks remain which may have consequences for the public and businesses,” Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said. “Government will face new challenges in monitoring and responding to any disruption that may ensue following a no-deal exit and will need to replace temporary measures with sustainable long-term solutions to ensure the border is fit for purpose.”

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