Gains from blockchain could deliver $3trillion of value by 2030.

A WTO report published this week concluded that the gains from blockchain could deliver $3trillion of value by 2030 if they are incorporated into international trade processes.

Those sorts of numbers just simply cannot be sniffed at and our politicians should be grasping every opportunity to get a piece of that pie – because if they don’t, others will.

Yet this week in Westminster we have heard only ‘it can’t be done’, particularly from the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

What has been brought to the fore during a series of ministerial grillings is the number of technical details which so far have been kept away from the headlines. Firstly it was the legal opinion on the withdrawal deal and, following the Chancellor’s appearance in committee yesterday, international trade became the latest complex issue.

Mr Hammond, who has been involved in the Brexit process since the referendum result, told MPs that it would take the country more than two years to prepare its ports for Brexit on WTO terms. He said the planning system would “struggle” to approve such “significant infrastructure change in two years, never mind getting them built.”

The comments caused more than a few raised eyebrows in the UK tech world, which has been trying to offer advice to the government on how we could use technology to create virtual borders including offering specialists to address committees and answer any questions.

Not only has the government had two years to get its act together regarding border controls, I wonder what kind of border Mr Hammond is envisioning: because the point is, we don’t need large concrete edifices and armies of border officers with clipboards; we need to embrace innovation.

Forget the need for white elephants and financial black holes like HS2 or CrossRail; this is about being dynamic, cost effective and actually using money wisely. This is a world where businesses of all sizes are looking at ‘agile’ solutions to tackle new ways of doing things and this is the attitude that the government needs to adopt. Let’s throw this objective into the mix and let nimble, free thinking tech firms find the solution. I guarantee we wouldn’t be years behind schedule or £600million over budget.

Rather than tie ourselves up in knots – and my goodness haven’t the government really got themselves in a pickle over all of this – we should look at what technology can do to provide frictionless, or in the case of Northern Ireland, virtual borders which UK tech already has the capability to operate.

We should remember we are working with existing technology, which is already in use for international trade across EU borders and which requires only a modicum of tuning to align with the UK/EU requirements.

I will even stick my neck out and say with the development time required for the technology it can be delivered within 12 months.

From where I sit right now, I cannot think of any reason, other than bureaucracy and politics, why this cannot be up and running within the required timeframe at the very least to match the current low-level of checking which takes place.

Speaking to a driver yesterday who worked for six years taking goods from the UK across Europe into Switzerland, he explained that the most complex process he went through was a paper form formality where a barcode is scanned. But mostly he said, “You arrive at the border, don’t even get out the vehicle and it’s scanned then cleared inland at depot.”

This will not take two years and the upgrading to systems using technology such as blockchain should be being implemented anyway, regardless of Brexit. As the WTO report concluded, ‘blockchain could open new opportunities to enhance the efficiency of (international trade) in a number of areas related to WTO work’, adding it could ‘help move trade closer to becoming paperless’.

Our world has been shaped by technological innovations, from the spinning jenny to the development of antibiotics and the internet – which was considered controversial when first created. Distributed ledger technology has been greeted by many as the next big game changer can empower individuals and companies around the world by making transactions more efficient, economy and faster whilst retaining a high level of security through its immutable manner without relying on a single trusted third party.

It democratises transactions and trade, could reduce fraud, enhance traceability and trust and open new opportunities.

It’s why the government need to put the obfuscation to one side and grab these chances on behalf of the country rather than coming up with excuses for why it can’t and hasn’t been done.