Customs plans not fit for Brexit purposes, says FTA

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The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has raised serious concerns about the National Audit Office (NAO)’s report on the progress of the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) programme.

The FTA also says suitability to handle the anticipated levels of Customs declarations at British ports post-Brexit and has grave doubts that the new system, currently in development by HMRC, will be able to cope with the anticipated 255 million additional Customs declarations to be made at British ports each year when the UK leaves the European Union.

FTA’s deputy chief executive, James Hookham says: “With only two months anticipated between the delivery of the CDS programme and the UK’s departure from the EU, it is imperative that all the potential problems have been ironed out in the system before implementation.

“Without assurances that the rigorous stress tests recommended by the NAO have been undertaken, to ensure the Customs system can cope with the high volumes of traffic it will be handling, HMRC will be creating unnecessary uncertainty for British businesses, at a time stable trading conditions will be vital for our economy.

“But there is no mention how exporters and importers, their agents and their carriers will be trained in time to make this a smooth transition to Keep Britain Trading.

“It is irresponsible to suggest that a programme like CDS can be introduced overnight, and it is vital that the government and its negotiators do not leave business on a cliff edge, with no deal agreed at the UK’s point of departure from the EU.

“Britain’s economy needs a transitional period to ensure that Customs declarations can be moved to a new handling system in a controlled and managed method.  To do otherwise could be disastrous for the UK.”

More than 180,000 businesses are expected to use the new CDS system to facilitate UK-EU trade. Hookham says HMRC needs to ensure that its implementation of the new programme is supported by the whole of government to smooth its introduction.