back to article National Audit Office: We'll be in a world of pain with '90s border tech post-Brexit

The clunky technology underpinning Blighty's border control leaves the UK in concerning position post-Brexit, a National Audit Office report has found. Border operations in the UK still rely on '90s technology that lacks modern functionality. "The government's ambitions to seamlessly interact with citizens, and securely share …

  1. James 51 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    It's going to be a total failure. The time scale is too short and the money isn't there and perhaps most importantly the (competent) leadership isn't there. Plus with the post Brexit arrangements still undecided any project would be developing to a moving target.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Pete4000uk

        Yeah, do you thing G4S or Crapita (who will no doubt get the job) will be able to do that?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Infnords: I think your faith in the competence of military contractors might be misplaced.

      3. Roland6 Silver badge

        It is only a mess because of the gross incompetence of fake conservatives like Cameron and May

        Err Cameron never worked at the Home Office, as for T.May - what has been notable is the lack of any real investment in UK border systems, given her direct acquaintance with such matters since 2010...

      4. H in The Hague

        "... to fast track a secure replacement system by suitable developers, possibly military contractors."

        Ermm, with all due respect to my one or two valued clients in this field, what makes you think military contractors are going to do a better job than anyone else? And there is the little matter of the client (home office?) having to provide some good specifications first. Incidentally, have you ever worked in the IT industry?

      5. Adrian Midgley 1

        9 women cannot in one month

        make a baby.

        "Control" is what is being discussed. It isn't abstract, it involves bricks, people and software.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      "It's going to be a total failure."

      Correct.

      Aside from the 70's era ICL mainframe CHIEF system and it's almost unknown 4GL (how tough can that be?) the big joker in this pack will be the fabled border-without-checkpoints that will be the Republic/NI EU/UK border.

      Apparently it will use "technology" to stop any unauthorized crossings without needing people to be stopped.

      I have no idea how this can be made to work.

      Unfortunately I don't think the UKG has either (certainly not by March 2018).

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "It's going to be a total failure."

        "the big joker in this pack will be the fabled border-without-checkpoints that will be the Republic/NI EU/UK border."

        As an added delight this is straddled by farms and even, I believe, buildings.

        I remember being on holiday in Sligo in the Republic, going out for a drive and finding ourselves arriving, via back roads in Belleek in NI after a navigational error without any indication of when or where we crossed the border.

        Later, at the height of the height of the troubles with massively fortified army posts, the border was still somewhat notional. However much "technology" gets thrown at it things won't change unless we get Trump in to build a wall.

        1. Christoph Silver badge

          Re: "It's going to be a total failure."

          "and even, I believe, buildings.

          Such as the pub in the little village of Puckoon.

          1. Jonathan Richards 1
            Thumb Up

            Re: "It's going to be a total failure."

            Puckoon!

            Hold on a minute, Father, de cat's pissed on de matches

        2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          "things won't change unless we get Trump in to build a wall."

          Unfortunately that's the one option that everyone's trying to avoid.

          I don't know if people in NI had to carry ID cards during the troubles, or if they still do.

          But what about visitors from "The Mainland" IE the rest of the UK?

          Those "Transitional arrangements" people are talking about could last a while.

    3. Christoph Silver badge

      There is simply no possible way these systems, or many other absolutely critical systems, will be written, tested, and running by B-Day.

      And then a whole lot of other systems run by for instance companies importing to and exporting from the UK must be updated to be compatible with those systems.

      And if all that isn't ready in time, our economy gets washed down the B-Day.

  2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

    Can we not just buy this stuff off the shelf? There are other borders in the world other than the ones either side of the English channel.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Can we not just buy this stuff off the shelf? There are other borders in the world other than the ones either side of the English channel.

      You certainly could, but you may also have to buy the full set of the laws, rules, regulations, and possibly local languages of the originating country.

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Surely there's a firm or two making stuff that's flexible enough to be used by multiple countries?

        1. Prosthetic Conscience
          Trollface

          I can think if one

          SalesfarceDotCom

      2. Libertarian Voice

        You can bet your life it will be object orientated, so you should certainly be able to buy and adapt the framework.

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          "...and adapt the framework."

          I'm already foreseeing setbacks and delays.

          1. tom dial Silver badge

            See the Wikipedia page for "DIHMRS" for a not-too-ancient example of this.

      3. Roland6 Silver badge
        Pint

        "Can we not just buy this stuff off the shelf? ....

        You certainly could, but you may also have to buy the full set of the laws, rules, regulations, and possibly local languages of the originating country."

        Well, I'm sure one of our European neighbours could sell us a system as a service (hosted in euCloud) that was a close match to the UK's current laws, rules and regulations. Although last time I looked the version with the ability to participate in the revision of laws, rules, regulations and supported languages was around £350m per week...

        [Mine's a pint of bitter.. ]

      4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        So we would need to buy the system from an English-speaking country whose immigration rule is simply no-foreigners?

        Should be able to get 3 bids - no problem

    2. Adrian Midgley 1

      Well yes, we could... it is called

      "Schengen".

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Brexit?

    We'll be in a world of pain with '90s border tech post-Brexit

    then

    most of which will arise regardless of exit from the EU.

    So, just more FUD that really has nothing to do with Brexit, then? It's just another plain old Government last-minute spending screwup.

    1. RyokuMas Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Brexit?

      Yeah, the amount of FUD going on from both sides of the Brexit argument are making Google, Microsoft et al look lke rank amateurs!

    2. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: Brexit?

      @AC

      Damn you got there before me. The brexit in the title would appear to have next to nothing to do with the UK border problem. I guess the attempt is to keep the moan in remoaner? I hate that as a word but whoever came up with that title is trying to earn it.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Brexit?

        There is a Brexit angle that might well screw things up even further.

        Imagine the scenario where there is no deal over visa free travel from Blighty into the EU.

        Everyone would need a Visa. For France, the last time I checked from my then Russian GF, it needed a personal interview and £70 a time and a 10 week wait to get an interview. (She went to the Hungrian one and got it over the counter. Hungary is part of Schengen so it was fine)

        The same may go the other way round. EU people needing a Visa to come here.

        So before the get to the flakey Border system the Embassies and Consulates all over the EU will be innundated by people wanting Visas.

        Naturally, many of those Visas won't be recognised by said geriatric system. Chaos will ensue.

        Brexit could if the above happens be the straw that sends the UK Border "Closed".

        1. Mage Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: no deal over visa free travel

          No controls needed if you aren't letting goods or people in or out. That seems to be what the extremists want. They only want to offer Financial services [= tax havens and money laundering].

          1. codejunky Silver badge

            Re: no deal over visa free travel

            @ Mage

            "No controls needed if you aren't letting goods or people in or out. That seems to be what the extremists want"

            I hate to say I agree with you about the extremists, except the only ones I hear demanding this are those who argue for remain. It is concerning that some people seem to want the country to burn if they cant have their own way.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: no deal over visa free travel

              "I hate to say I agree with you about the extremists, except the only ones I hear demanding this are those who argue for remain."

              Which "this" do you mean?

              "It is concerning that some people seem to want the country to burn if they cant have their own way."

              Our worry is that we will see the country burn because of those who have got their own way although it's not very clear just what that way is.

              1. codejunky Silver badge

                Re: no deal over visa free travel

                @ Doctor Syntax

                "Which "this" do you mean?"

                Blocking up the country and not letting anyone in or out. I am sure there is a racist somewhere banging a drum on a street corner shouting the same idea but so far I have only heard the idea (and repeatedly) from people arguing remain.

                "Our worry is that we will see the country burn because of those who have got their own way although it's not very clear just what that way is."

                I know that feeling. Been stuck with it since the EU was suddenly formed and we joined regardless of the lack of support from the population, nor other countries having referendums and then ignored to create a huge supranational entity which is constantly in crisis yet we are told the sun shines out its arse. And nobody knows what it will be yet either. The only thing we here and in the EU seem to agree on is the EU cannot survive in its current form.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Brexit?

        Now wait just a dog damn minute.

        We are leaving the European Union, what difference does that make to our borders?

        We will still be letting in the people we want and stopping the people we don't.

        This has absolutely nothing to do with brexit because if we can't do it now then why is brexit going to stop us doing it then.

        The only difference brexit will have is that we will have to record Europeans in the same was we currently record people from out of Europe. There may be visa requirements but you just increase capacity in that system.

        Making claims like this to people with the enough intelligence to question it is counter to what you want.

        1. wolfetone Silver badge

          Re: Brexit?

          "We are leaving the European Union, what difference does that make to our borders?"

          The sharing of information. If hard Brexit happens, then there's no ability to check the information on the passport. There by no one gets in or out of the country. Plus it wouldn't be a visa to an EU citizen. It's a visa to a French citizen, German, Polish etc.

          That's the difference it makes.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Brexit?

            @John G Imrie

            Getting it done and increasing capacity are not determined by brexit, this is about funding and increasing capacity. Sure you have to do it faster but what's the problem with that?

            The rules will be whatever we as a sovereign country say they are. Unless you're suggesting that the EU determine who we or how we let people into our country? Let them try that with another country and let me know how they get on.

            @wolfetone

            Sharing of information works both ways, it's not going to stop, hard brexit or not and I would bet my house on that one.

            It would be a visa to an EU citizen, why create separate ones? That's counter intuitive and silly, that's like creating separate visa's for each American state.

            At the end of the day this is where we are and government departments using it as an excuse for their general ineptitude is not on and I'm not falling for it.

            1. John G Imrie Silver badge

              Sure you have to do it faster but what's the problem with that?

              I refer you to The Mythical Man Month.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Sure you have to do it faster but what's the problem with that?

                Ok, I'll be a bit clearer, have they tried to do it? have they started it? Do they have the funding to do it?

                If not why not? and if not how do they know they will fail?

                Running to the NAO complaining it's because of Brexit is not the way to get things done.

                1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                  Re: Sure you have to do it faster but what's the problem with that?

                  "Running to the NAO"

                  The A in NAO stands for "Audit". You don't run to auditors, they come after you.

            2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: Brexit?

              "The rules will be whatever we as a sovereign country say they are."

              Have you not been following any of this?

              Go and read the papers or the accounts on the Been news website covering the last few months' worth of negotiations and then come back and tell us what those rules will be. Because none of the rest of us know. And by the time you've done that you might have started to wonder just ho "sovereign" a country we will be post-Brexit.

              Or failing that, go and round up a few of the Unicorns that are going to bring the magic to make it all work. We're going to need them.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Brexit?

              The rules will be whatever we as a sovereign country say they are.

              Naturally. The problem is that it takes time to go from the Parliament saying what the rules are, to the government figuring out how, where, and when these rules are enforced, to somebody writing the code supporting the process, to the system being deployed to the customs and immigration in the field, to the border guards and customs officers learning to use the new system, to the first citizen, visitor, or goods truck crossing the border under the new rules.

              Also do not forget that at each step of this process, there is feedback, debugging, and inevitable change orders - either to fix the problems found in implementing the original decisions/specifications, or because the laws, rules, and regulations are being tweaked as the implementation process is going on.

              Having being involved in a department-level government projects (which are easy as these things go), I would guess that something like this will take many years to get off the ground, even with unlimited funds. It will probably take a decade before more eggregious problems and bugs are finally sorted out, and the system becomes genuinely usable. Assuming no major hiccups occur, of course.

            4. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Brexit?

              >this is about funding and increasing capacity

              It's running on kit that you haven't been able to buy for about 20 years in a language that also hasn't been used for about the same amount of time by staff who are getting to retirement age.

              Increasing capacity simply isn't an option, the knowledge isn't available even if it was possible to buy the equipment and more than it would be possible to make a PlayStation 1 run PlayStation 4 games by "increasing capacity".

              That's why they're trying to replace it with something new that can be scaled and *that's* proving more difficult than expected, largely because the money isn't there to do it properly.

              I hate to break it to the people in here who think that Bexit is actually very simple and all we have to do is walk away from everything, but the world is actually a very complicated place and doesn't work like that.

              Do you want to know what things look like if we do it your way? North Korea, without the Dear Leader worship cult.

              1. codejunky Silver badge

                Re: Brexit?

                @AC

                "That's why they're trying to replace it with something new that can be scaled and *that's* proving more difficult than expected, largely because the money isn't there to do it properly."

                Can very much agree with that.

                "I hate to break it to the people in here who think that Bexit is actually very simple and all we have to do is walk away from everything, but the world is actually a very complicated place and doesn't work like that."

                That argument does very much seem to be that we are currently cut off from the world which we will have to re-enter. We do still handle immigration from the world so the border is required anyway. In or out of the EU the border needs to be there anyway. The idea that it is more difficult because we are removing an exception (for EU citizens) doesnt really add up. Why would we want to hide from the world? Why should we want to run away from it?

                "Do you want to know what things look like if we do it your way? North Korea, without the Dear Leader worship cult."

                This I can seriously disagree with. Remove democracy and (as per your comment) hide from the world. Fed propaganda that the EU is doing well regardless of its constant multiple crisis. EU interference in member elections to get the 'right' candidates. Micromanaging the economy. And of course willing to sacrifice people to retain political power. Looks like we are trying to move away from that outcome in the UK.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Brexit?

            . If hard Brexit happens, then there's no ability to check the information on the passport.

            Nonsense. There are 160+ countries that are not in the EU, and we manage visa-free travel to many of them. The EU didn't invent the idea of easy travel, nor does it enable it. I've travelled around Europe without visas before the EU existed, and expect to continue to do so.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Brexit?

              Curious how remainders love to downvote facts. Sorry, but it won't change them.

          3. Adrian Midgley 1

            EU visa/waiver.

            The "visa to a French citizen, German, Polish etc." will be identical I think as they are all EU.

            Otherwise there may be difficulty with the EU in relation to entry to their borders.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Brexit?

          We will still be letting in the people we want and stopping the people we don't.

          I don't see much evidence of any border controls, other than some tedious theatricals to delay holidaymakers.

          1. Teiwaz Silver badge

            Re: Brexit?

            I don't see much evidence of any border controls, other than some tedious theatricals to delay holidaymakers.

            Hmm, that and almost the full weight of gov. paranoia because maybe you bought a few too many packs of fags

          2. Mage Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: tedious theatricals to delay holidaymakers

            There seems to have been inability when T.May was H.S. and now as PM to control NON-EU people arriving, which the EU has no say in and UK ALREADY has "Total Control" over.

            Instead the H.O. picks the easy targets of documented spouses of UK citizens, EU citizens, spouses of EU citizens and valid asylum seekers and deports or bullies them into leaving, even when they are legally here (currently).

            Hence scepticism about T.May assertions about EU citizen rights post Brextit.

            Is it even functional 90s tech?

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Brexit?

          "you just increase capacity in that system"

          You make it sound easy. Are you volunteering for the job?

        4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Brexit?

          "We are leaving the European Union, what difference does that make to our borders?"

          It makes a difference of who's allowed to come and who, of those present before the event, are allowed to stay. None of which is settled and doesn't seem likely to be, on present showing, until at least the beginning of March 2019.

      3. John G Imrie Silver badge

        Re: Brexit?

        The problem is that because of Brexit we have to

        a) Get this done now

        b) Don't know what the rules are

        Without Brexit we would have known what rules we should be working to and could take as long as necessary.

        Brexit has had one positive outcome, because of the hard deadline we will know quite soon just how big a fuck up the new system is.

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: Brexit?

          @ John G Imrie

          "The problem is that because of Brexit we have to

          a) Get this done now"

          No. we Should have a border anyway since we are supposed to be enforcing it against anyone not from the chosen land. The idea that we need to make a border now because we are leaving the EU is a statement that we need a border now nothing to do with the EU.

          "Without Brexit we would have known what rules we should be working to and could take as long as necessary."

          The simple answer is hard brexit as the EU refuse to negotiate. Unless that position changes (which they are trying to dictate terms before any negotiation, a big no no) we will need a border of the likes we should already have. One which records movement in and out of the country while checking the validity of entry.

          "Brexit has had one positive outcome, because of the hard deadline we will know quite soon just how big a fuck up the new system is."

          I cant imagine it takes much foresight to see how fucked up the gov project will be. National borders or picnic in a sandwich shop.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Brexit?

            "One which records movement in and out of the country while checking the validity of entry."

            You're trying to hide the problem in that little word "validity" aren't you. How do you determine it?

            There's another problem hidden under "entry". What about non-UK national EU citizens already here?

          2. strum Silver badge

            Re: Brexit?

            >The simple answer is hard brexit as the EU refuse to negotiate.

            Bollocks. The EU have had a clear negotiating position, agreed amongst the 27. The UK can't even get agreement among the 22 Cabinet members.

            This shambles is entirely of HMG's making (with 'help' from irridentist Brexiteers who would rather see the world burn, than make any compromise).

            Armchair 'negotiators' who think it's 'just a simple mattter of' anything are dumb as rocks. For good or ill, this is the biggest change the UK has sen since WWII. It has started badly. it continues badly and it will end badly.

            1. codejunky Silver badge

              Re: Brexit?

              @ strum

              "The EU have had a clear negotiating position, agreed amongst the 27"

              Have they? So far we have yet to hear of negotiation, we only have their amusing demands we have no good choice but to reject. So far the only thing from the EU 'negotiators' is that they cannot negotiate. They demand 100bn euro gone up from 60 and even the negotiators dont believe they will get it but that is non-negotiable. The EU demands an Irish border the Irish (both sides) dont want and the EU demands that we make the border, even though it is them that want it, it is non-negotiable. They demand their court is above ours concerning their citizens remaining in our country even though that is a preposterous idea but it is non-negotiable. After we agree to all of that the EU will consider negotiating and will then have to set out a negotiating position.

              Just to wake you and them up, this is for us to leave. An action we can do with no agreement and giving them no money if we so choose. Our negotiating position is we are leaving and it is a very simple action they cannot stop from happening unless they conquer the country militarily. Their position is a mess of idiots wanting to punish us (which they cant) and pragmatists wanting to avoid mutual damage. We would like to avoid mutual damage but as mutual suggests- they would need to be onboard too. So unless they allow their negotiators to negotiate then they are not willing to negotiate. Fantastical demands is not negotiation and we are right to tell them which sun dont shine hole to shove em.

              "This shambles is entirely of HMG's making (with 'help' from irridentist Brexiteers who would rather see the world burn, than make any compromise)."

              Really? So far the only ones wanting any harm seems to be from the remain side. Demanding we cave in to stupid demands (see above). Insisting the result is racism and desire to shut ourselves off from the world. Demanding that democracy is thrown out of the window because it got the 'wrong' result. A problem with the EU we have noticed and pointed out for some time.

              "Armchair 'negotiators' who think it's 'just a simple mattter of' anything are dumb as rocks"

              Very true. The number of idiots who think we can just carry on within the EU after highlighting the lack of support they have as well as exposing their weakness to an article 50 from a contributing member as astounding. Some are so 'dumb' they cant tell the difference between a demand and a negotiation (see above).

              "For good or ill, this is the biggest change the UK has sen since WWII. It has started badly. it continues badly and it will end badly."

              I imagine it is an issue with perception but I agreed with that statement before realising you probably wrote is differently to how I read it. Because yes the EU is the biggest change to the UK since WW2. It started badly, continues badly and will likely end badly.

              1. Roland6 Silver badge

                Re: Brexit?

                So far we have yet to hear of negotiation

                Agree with you on this point - I've yet to see the UK government put a serious offer on the table other than suggest it will do nothing and thus fall off the end of the Article 50 conveyor - which effectively is the default EU deal and negotiating position, namely: it is up to you to come up with and present an offer that is more beneficial to the EU than the default one.

                What people are missing is that in a traditional sales negotiation, whilst my intention is to sell as high as I can and deliver as little as I can, my fundamental desire is to get the customer to believe the deal is a good one for them so that they sign up to it as: no signature = no contract = no commission. Simples!

                Now if we compare this to the UK-EU Brexit negotiations, I can see no schmoozing, no selling of why an independent UK is good for the EU, hence why they should give the UK single market access etc. on terms very similar to those currently enjoyed but without the inconvenient requirements and most certainly without the cost.

                Also, it is clear the UK isn't negotiating like a customer who, having realised they have been shafted, is now trying to extract as much blood as possible from a supplier.

                Hence it becomes obvious the only things the EU27 really need to concern themselves with are the implications of the UK falling off the Article 50 conveyor on themselves. The fact that the EU negotiators quite happily use figures of 60~100bn Euros without flinching, tells me that the EU27 can take the hit and have in fact already factored that in and so can calmly play the game of bluff and make their demands. So to them, the UK's threat to walk away isn't a threat, it is merely an anticipated outcome.

                Hence putting this into a 1980's context: T.May and the UK are Arthur Scargill and the miners' unions and Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU are M.Thatcher and her government - it is obvious who will finally prevail...

                1. codejunky Silver badge

                  Re: Brexit?

                  @ Roland6

                  "Agree with you on this point - I've yet to see the UK government put a serious offer on the table"

                  You might want to pay attention. So far the UK has offered to negotiate over the EU's amusing bill, proposed a solution to the Irish border problem (the EU's problem) and offered reciprocal citizens right to remain. However the EU have not permitted their negotiators to negotiate so they must demand 100bn euro, a hard Irish border and invasive rights over citizens. Seemingly ignorant that our leaving is certain but without negotiation the EU gets nothing.

                  "which effectively is the default EU deal and negotiating position, namely: it is up to you to come up with and present an offer that is more beneficial to the EU than the default one."

                  You seem to misunderstand, it isnt us who go to them with an offer. We are leaving and yes the default position is we leave, which is what we are doing and the EU cant really stop us. At the negotiating table our position is of reducing or avoiding mutual damage. The EU so far have made demands and stated they cannot negotiate until we agree to the demands. We have no reason to agree so its not our problem if the EU cannot negotiate.

                  "I can see no schmoozing"

                  Good. Why would we? If they want to inflict self harm that is their choice. Yes we will both take a hit but if the EU isnt willing to negotiate then there is nothing we can do for them. Maybe they will come around to realising cutting off their nose to spite their face is stupid. Maybe they will just create another problem for themselves to go with all the others.

                  "no selling of why an independent UK is good for the EU, hence why they should give the UK single market access"

                  Question 1. Why the hell do we need to sell the EU the idea of an independent UK? Its happening regardless of their grip on reality.

                  Question 2. Why should they give us access to the single market? The tariff free area is about the best thing of the EU but with severe downsides such as excluding the rest of the world. They cant even negotiate with the US or China, both of which have already come to us for trade deals.

                  "Also, it is clear the UK isn't negotiating like a customer who"

                  Ahh now it makes sense. Stop thinking like a customer. We are a member. A net contributing member. One they apparently fear leaving.

                  "The fact that the EU negotiators quite happily use figures of 60~100bn Euros without flinching"

                  Actually they presented 60bn and we laughed at how incompetent they were. The 100bn was the flinch and apparently they flinched a lot as a junior negotiator went painstakingly line by line and discredited that one too. Even their own negotiators dont believe they can get 100bn.

                  1. Roland6 Silver badge

                    Re: Brexit?

                    At the negotiating table our position is of reducing or avoiding mutual damage.

                    That might be what our politicians have said, but what of substance has the UK government put on the table?

                    As you note we are members, hence the easiest way to get your own way is to present a vision and demonstrate how it will be in their best interests to support you! And the best time to have done that was July-Dec 2017 when the UK would have held the Presidency - however, in the interests of Conservative party unity, T.May couldn't wait to start Brexit and so forfeited this opportunity...

                    The points around the Irish border and the financial settlement are simply responses to specific points.

                    Like you I would hope that there are some knowledgeable and intelligent people (ie. not politicians) painstakingly going through things line-by-line because clearly, T.May's £20bn offer was just as disingenuous as the £100bn.

                    From Amsterdam (where I'm currently working with a client) the UK government and T.May and her Brexit team do look like a bunch of clowns. T.May expects the EU27 to agree, yet has been totally unable to get her cabinet of 20 to agree to anything significant... Hence I get the distinct impression that the EU27 are giving the UK plenty of rope and biding their time, hoping that at some point the UK government come to it's senses; in the meantime preparing for a no deal Brexit...

                    1. codejunky Silver badge

                      Re: Brexit?

                      @ Roland6

                      "That might be what our politicians have said, but what of substance has the UK government put on the table?"

                      An offer to pay our actual liabilities, Irish soft border solution (this isnt even our problem the EU demands we solve but theirs). Reciprocal citizen right to remain. Those are only the ones in response the the demands of the EU that the EU apparently didnt permit their negotiators to negotiate. Apart from that the UK seems to be trying to negotiate some transition period (not a fan tbh), some sort of trade deal to avoid mutual damage etc. The UK has not been short of will to negotiate, its just we have nobody to negotiate with.

                      "As you note we are members, hence the easiest way to get your own way is to present a vision and demonstrate how it will be in their best interests to support you!"

                      Surely that would come under the negotiation (see above) that the EU has not permitted their negotiators to do.

                      "The points around the Irish border and the financial settlement are simply responses to specific points."

                      Absolutely specific points. So why will the EU not negotiate anything until we agree to do what they absolutely demand with no negotiation and nothing in return for agreeing to it? If we leave with no deal neither of these things are our problem and the EU is entitled to nothing.

                      "Like you I would hope that there are some knowledgeable and intelligent people (ie. not politicians) painstakingly going through things line-by-line because clearly, T.May's £20bn offer was just as disingenuous as the £100bn."

                      That section hits the nail on the head. To be honest I would prefer Farage to negotiate this. His party pushed for this, his party succeeded, they were the ones with the plan to leave and he is very knowledgeable of the EU and our position.

                      "in the meantime preparing for a no deal Brexit"

                      It sounds like the UK is finally doing the same. And I am pretty happy about that as its the probable and possibly best outcome.

                      1. Tom Paine Silver badge

                        Re: Brexit?

                        Irish soft border solution (this isnt even our problem the EU demands we solve but theirs

                        I think you'll find that if there's anything that requires cars to stop and answer questions from a human will mean the end of the Peace Process, and that will be very much our problem, even those of us who don't live in Ulster.

                        The psychopaths haven't gone away, you know; they've just lost popular support and, ahem, colleagues who blew up and shot people for purely political reasons, rather than because that's how they got their jollies. As an Irish MP pointed out: put up an ANPR camera on a tower and someone will come along with a tractor and pull it down. Now you have to replace the tower and have a guy with a gun standing next to it. Some of us are old enough to remember how that ends. Do yourself a favour, take a trip down memory lane and check out, say, images of the Bishopsgate bomb.

                        https://www.google.com/search?tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=905&bih=608&q=bishopsgate+bomb&oq=bishopsgate+bomb&gs_l=img.3...782.4471.0.4945.17.12.0.0.0.0.365.639.2-1j1.2.0....0...1.1.64.img..15.2.636.0..0.0.Vj3LdBpa5cI#imgrc=_

                        Funny enough, this is a five minute stroll from where I work today. It's a mass of tower cranes and concrete cores as yet more glass and steel towers go up - - projects that had broken ground before the vote, buildings that I suspect are going to be mostly empty for a good few years.

                        1. codejunky Silver badge

                          Re: Brexit?

                          @ Tom Paine

                          "I think you'll find that if there's anything that requires cars to stop and answer questions from a human will mean the end of the Peace Process, and that will be very much our problem, even those of us who don't live in Ulster."

                          I expect this is why the EU demand we must solve their problem. We (UK) dont really care about a border there and the Irish dont want it, so why would we piss them off? The EU knowing it would piss off the Irish dont want to be responsible for it but they are the ones who want it. Without a border the Irish would have a wonderful position of the advantages of the EU single market without the disadvantages.

                          We should tell the EU to suck it up and if they want any form of border they can do it themselves. Probably why its one of the 3 unreasonable demands of the EU that must be capitulated to before the EU will negotiate squat.

                      2. Roland6 Silver badge

                        Re: Brexit?

                        "in the meantime preparing for a no deal Brexit"

                        It sounds like the UK is finally doing the same. And I am pretty happy about that as its the probable and possibly best outcome.

                        Well I give you credit for probably having a realistic grasp of the negotiating capabilities of T.May, D.Davis et al !

                        Unfortunately, it won't be the best possible outcome for the UK or the EU...

                        1. codejunky Silver badge

                          Re: Brexit?

                          @ Roland6

                          "Well I give you credit for probably having a realistic grasp of the negotiating capabilities of T.May, D.Davis et al !"

                          I dont credit them with much hope. I consider the Tories to be the knock off brexit group and would prefer Farrage's UKIP to be handling it. I very much doubt any of this messing around would be going on, the EU would make its demand (as it has), refuse to negotiate until those demands are met (wont be) and UKIP would have left the room until the EU come to their senses or the date to leave requires a signature. Our negotiators would be better off spending their time dealing with countries willing to negotiate, and there are plenty.

                          "Unfortunately, it won't be the best possible outcome for the UK or the EU..."

                          Very true. Both sides will take a hit from this and that is to be expected. But it would be in the best interests of both sides to be amicable. I dont know if that would be possible though. The EU doesnt want to negotiate and the knock off brexit party are made of committed remainers/leavers. I just hope both sides get their act together but that might be a lot to ask.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Brexit?

          "Brexit has had one positive outcome, because of the hard deadline we will know quite soon just how big a fuck up the new system is."

          We don't know already?

          1. Tom Paine Silver badge

            Re: Brexit?

            We may have a shrewd suspicion but we don't know if the headlines will be "drugs and terrorists flood into Britain as border controls give up and open the gates" or "unemployment hits five millions as 70% of firms exporting to the EU go bust" or "millions of pounds worth of goods stuck in the longest tailback traffic jam of all time from Dover to the M25" or "inflation hits 25% for the first time since I was a lad". Or possibly "sanity prevails and transition deal means everything continues as before on B-day +1, final Brexit postponed indefinintely". Who knows? Your guess is as good as mine. It's going to be a GCF either way.

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Brexit?

        "The brexit in the title would appear to have next to nothing to do with the UK border problem."

        OK, if you know what the post-Brexit requirement is going to be maybe you'd let Davis, Barnier & everyone else involved because as far as I can see none of them have a clue.

    3. John Lilburne

      Re: Brexit?

      Upgrading the system will be the same, Tory EU idiocy or not, but the thing will be greatly worse as pre idiocy one could have relied on the systems within the EU to track thinks like Freight IMPORT/EXPORT.

      Of course if one is simply concerned about counting those of a swarthy complexion then it might seem to be the same thing. Though why it would cost a £beeeellllllliiiion is anyones guess:

      https://www.amazon.co.uk/tally-counter/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Atally%20counter

    4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Brexit?

      "So, just more FUD that really has nothing to do with Brexit, then? It's just another plain old Government last-minute spending screwup."

      No it's the plain old Govt screwup plus Brexit which itself introduces a last minute element because until the terms are known there can't be a specification. Remember that EU negotiations have traditionally involved stopped clocks in that they end up being completed in the early hours of the morning after the deadline. This one's going to be a doozy.

  4. Salestard

    How hard can it be?

    Not a troll question, but a genuine one for those that understand these things on a proper level.

    As I see it, the system needs to conduct >300 million lookups per annum, at a relatively small number of locations, flagging alerts from either domestic agencies, or foreign ones (on the assumption that the databases would be linked), thus allowing the border mob to take appropriate action.

    Assuming it can't be a fork of an existing system like the PNC, then what on earth is going into it to make it so terrifically expensive?

    I'm genuinely curious as to how much flashylightboxes and code you'd need to run something like this.

    I suspect I already know why it's late and over budget, and it involves the magic c-word, day rates, and scope creep - One day, in the dim distant future, we'll have a Government and civil service who understand IT at a senior level and we don't end up with yet another bazillion pound clusterfart that crashes when users try to login.

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: How hard can it be?

      300 million lookups per annum is bugger all. It averages out to about 9.5 per second.

    2. David Pearce

      Re: How hard can it be?

      Lookup what? Passport numbers change every few years. Foreign passports are run on systems that won't be exposed to the UK. Names can change and many people have the same name.

      Add biometrics to the mix (several incompatible and proprietary systems probably in use) and it all starts getting very complex

      1. Salestard

        Re: How hard can it be?

        That was part of the reason I asked the question - didn't know passport numbers changed with any frequency.

        My reference to lookup is that in purest objective terms the system needs to lookup an individual (based on whatever information is presented - passport number, fingerprint, eye scan, visa, etc) and then return a result or cluster of information saying 'fine', or 'very not fine'.

        To my simple IT sales mind, that in itself is a relatively simple system and process to create - but I can see getting that information from external agencies into the system would be hugely complicated, assuming you'd want them on a live or near live connection to the external data.

        1. David Pearce

          Re: How hard can it be?

          If everyone had a unique serial number for life, the lookup would be easy. They don't.

          Finger prints and other biometrics are useful for confirming identity if that individual has been seen before, but very poor at identifying unknown people

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: How hard can it be?

          "To my simple IT sales mind, that in itself is a relatively simple system and process to create"

          That's the IT sales approach. Sell a simple system and then make the money out of the bits that weren't initially defined.

          As things stand the bits that aren't defined include what happens to non-UK EU citizens already in the country.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How hard can it be?

            As things stand the bits that aren't defined include what happens to non-UK EU citizens already in the country.

            Actually that's one of the first things about Brexit that was clearly defined, but the EU won't let its negotiators even discuss it until they've settled the "brexit bill" issue. They expect the UK to agree on the financial penalties for leaving the EU, before they even agree on what "leaving the EU" means, which is, unsurprisingly, a sticking point in the negotiations.

            1. Tom Paine Silver badge

              Re: How hard can it be?

              Actually that's one of the first things about Brexit that was clearly defined, but the EU won't let its negotiators even discuss it until they've settled the "brexit bill" issue.

              You are mistaken. There are three issues that they have said they want to see progress towards an agreement on before moving on to trade terms: status of citizens, the NI border and the size of the remaining financial commitments. These are literally all that Davis clown show and Barnier have have been negotiating about so far. As such, your statement could not be more wrong. By a process of inductive reasoning, I have reached a conclusion about the value of the remainder of your comment and decided not to read it.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How hard can it be?

          didn't know passport numbers changed with any frequency.

          A passport lasts 10 years, when you renew it you get a new passport with a new number. There's nothing new, or especially complicated, in that. The issuing government no doubt maintains a record of the numbers for a given passport holder, updated each renewal.

        4. Tom Paine Silver badge

          Re: How hard can it be?

          Just as one example of the myriad of factors you're unaware of, there's not just a single database query "01983475r93/B : Paine, T.: admit or refuse?" That's the question the narrow-eyed guardian of the nation peering suspiciously at your passport is asking, but have you any idea how many different terror blacklists, no-fly lists, money-laundering blacklists, Interpol alerts, UK police "stop and detain" alerts, etc there are? As a simple-minded IT sales person you may be assuming that surely all those disparate data sources feed into a single back-end system somewhere in teh home office's DC that synthesises all that into a single unified yes/no decision; to which I can only ask whether you've ever sold into the public sector?

          The next thing to consider is that N.E.G.o.t.N. doesn't make that decision purely on the basis of the passport.

          And so on and so forth.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How hard can it be?

        Foreign passports are run on systems that won't be exposed to the UK

        This I don't follow. It's the case today for most countries, it will be the case tomorrow for most countries. Even within the EU governments don't share all information about their citizens with other EU countries, and nor should they. Brexit isn't going to change that.

      3. Tom Paine Silver badge

        Re: How hard can it be?

        To be fair, passports meet an international standard. That little biometric symbol on the front of the standard maroon passport leavers affect to hate so much isn't just on EU passports. LIkewise the machine-readable data section inside the back cover.

        A system to read a passport and check it's validity, look it up against various databases, blacklists, alert lists, etc etc already exists and is in use. The problem is that business logic will be changing. Not only are the rules going to be different for the EU27, but (surprise!) the relationship between us and the rest of the world will, in many cases, change at the same time -- in an exciting variety of ways, depending which country you;re considering. Sticking a pin in at random, let's take Switzerland. We don't have any particular arrangements for UK cits visiting Switzerland, or for Swiss citizens visiting the UK: we have agreements on those things /AS AN EU MEMBER STATE/. Those agreements are all null and void at midnight on 2019-03-29.

        Hint: there are other countries apart from Switzerland.

        Get it now?

    3. SVV Silver badge

      Re: How hard can it be?

      "One day, in the dim distant future, we'll have a Government and civil service who understand IT"

      Don't hold your breath waiting. It's an Oxbridge carve up for humanities graduates only. And given the fact that the average IT manager is also a no clue zone when it comes to technology and sane project management, how can you expect any of the Whitehall greasy pole climbers to ever get near to a level of basic competence required?

    4. Tom Paine Silver badge

      Re: How hard can it be?

      Not a troll question, but a genuine one for those that understand these things on a proper level.

      Fair enough!

      As I see it, [...]

      What is most likely:

      (1) that it's actually a fairly straightforward, routine system - fairly large and distributed, but nothing like as complicated as, say, a supermarket's logistics system, but it just can't be delivered because contractors are crap developers; or

      (2) that the problem space is actually a little larger and more complex than you imagine?

  5. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
    Trollface

    I have a solution . . .

    Clearly, the answer is "defence in depth." Authorize the internal police forces to stop people randomly (or with cause, e.g. if a person has suspiciously brown skin, slanted eyes, a large nose, or is heard to speak with a foreign accent) and check their authorization papers. For added security, you could even establish a new agency of plainclothes inspectors, a "secret police" if you will, with extraordinary powers to search and detain suspected illegal foreigners. If that works, why not expand their power to investigate all sorts of individuals who might not be of pure Anglo-Saxon stock to ensure their conformity with traditional British values? I can see no problem with this plan.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I have a solution . . .

      "Papieren BITTE!

      ...

      Ha, you flinched - only kiddin! Now, be so kind an show me your forearm barcode...

  6. Scott Broukell
    Meh

    1990's - Paperwork

    I'm fine with this. All those entering or exiting the country will be required to attend the port of entry/exit 8-hours prior to checking in so as to complete reams of paperwork whilst under the beady eyes of trained customs/border staff, every drop of sweat, however small, upon their foreheads will be duly noted and the paperwork cross-checked and sent to the basement for working storage/retrieval. In this manner a very careful and thorough check of whose is who, going where, can be fully maintained and I would defy any even slightly jittery ne'er-do-well, lunatic or devilish scamp to pass through with success.

    1. John 98

      Re: 1990's - Paperwork

      And there is more good news, this excellent system will only be needed at ports and Eurostar stations. After hard Brexit, all the airports will be closed and UK airlines won't be flying.

      I've just thought, maybe this is the cunning plan to ensure the border force can cope with the demand

  7. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. John 98

      Re: Just how f'ing difficult is this

      Interface to foreign passport systems? Not EU ones I hope, you remoaning traitor.

      1. James 51 Silver badge

        Re: Just how f'ing difficult is this

        @John 98 You forgot the joke icon.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Just how f'ing difficult is this

      "a national database"

      What national database? A UK national database of people who aren't UK nationals?

  8. Teiwaz Silver badge
    Joke

    I was under the impression the brexit voting public wanted the UK as a cul de sac with a closed gate on the road in......because of plague terrorists furigners...

    RE: Borders to that - should be a doddle...

  9. D Moss Esq

    If you were born before yesterday ...

    ... you might remember that Meg Hillier was one of the many Home Office ministers who failed to improve border control, but don't let's be picky ...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: If you were born before yesterday ...

      "you might remember that Meg Hillier was one of the many Home Office ministers"

      So was John Reid who described it has "Not fit for purpose". Has anyone seen signs of improvement since then?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    government's ambitions to seamlessly interact with citizens

    this is scary

  11. Luke Worm

    Control

    Never mind the problems, challenges and costs … we will have CONTROL !

    </sarcasm>

  12. David Roberts Silver badge
    Trollface

    Blasted fuzzie wuzzies

    Comment so far has focused mainly on them damn foreigners trying to invade our fair land and clean our toilets. Or even fit them in the first place.

    CHIEF has a few words which don't seem to tie in with this, like cargo handling and import export.

    I though one major problem was the sheer volume of goods traded with the EU which would suddenly need new rules applied (although we don't know what they are yet). If we go to a hard brexit then I assume that all the goods which previously crossed an open border will have to queue up to be processed by these new rules. Which will increase the work load somewhat.

    Never mind, a quick scrum or two should soon sort it out. Along with a few more bodies perhaps. Oh, and a bit more money. Training would be nice.

    In fact, does CHIEF have anything at all to do with those blasted fuzzie wuzzies? I think we shoild be told.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    But, but, but

    <gollum>

    We wants it.

    We needs it

    We must have hard Brexit.

    </gollum>

    I think the UK has found it's next Foreign Secretary following the reshuffle.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Devil

    Wait...

    I thought it was racist to have borders..

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The UK is likely to be the western government with the largest civil-service spreadsheet estates, already. After delivering a series of systems in a rushed fashion MS will award the UK a prize for XL-ence and the Cabinet will award itself bonuses for a successful hyperagile-cloud-transformation.

  16. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Border operations in the UK still rely on '90s technology that lacks modern functionality.

    Not entirely convinced passport control needs wifi, bluetooth and a "Share" button...

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