OSLO: Scandinavia has a lesson for British customs officials ahead of Brexit: policing the European Union’s outer limits can be hard work.
Norway has the closest possible trading relationship with the EU without actually being part of the bloc, but its border with Sweden is still a haven for smugglers that requires an alert and nimble border force. And there were 229,286 checks on vehicles crossing in 2016, up slightly on the previous two years.
That suggests, among other things, that the U.K.’s vision of a frictionless (and invisible) Northern Irish border will be difficult to achieve. ‘Don’t build small border post’
On a recent weekday, Roger Nilsson, a 30-year veteran of Sweden’s border force, surveyed the battered cars outside his offices: a Lithuanian-registered saloon missing a fender, a dusty Audi A8 with a pair of sunglasses still on the dashboard; a battered van caked in mud.
These vehicles carried some of the smugglers caught by Nilsson and his team on the main roads and dusty tracks leading through the forested Swedish county of Värmland to the Norwegian border, less than a kilometer away.
The van’s suspension had been reinforced with extra springs to disguise its heavy load: around 1,000 liters of alcohol destined for Norway’s black market.