The British International Freight Association (BIFA) says that the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee is right to have concerns over the UK government and HMRC’s plans for Customs procedures post-Brexit.
Commenting after the publication of a report by the Committee, the trade association for UK freight forwarders agrees that more needs to be done to manage the huge uncertainty faced by a large number of traders over the matter of future Customs declarations once the UK leaves the European Union (EU).
Director general, Robert Keen, says the issues concerning Customs matters is probably the biggest concern voiced by the trade association’s members at present.
Keen explains: “We are actively involved with HMRC and have always recommended that there needs to be wider engagement with all who are engaged in processing international trade to give them as much time as possible to prepare and to allay fears.
“We agree that our members and the trading companies that they serve need better and more regular information about the development of the Customs Declaration Service (CDS), which is scheduled to replace the current Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system.
“We regularly explain the potential Customs benefits to our members of obtaining trusted trader status under the EU’s Authorised Economic Operator system, which the Committee sees as being of potential use for facilitating international trade procedures whatever form Brexit finally takes.
“We are looking forward to receiving further reassurance from HMRC that the CDS system and the CHIEF contingency option are capable of managing the likely huge increase in the number of Customs declarations every year, if no trade deal between the UK and EU is concluded.
“We share the Committee’s concern that HMRC does not yet have the necessary funding and resources to produce the infrastructure that will be required to facilitate Customs processes post-Brexit.
“We also appreciate that HMRC recognises the scale of the task it faces in preparing for the UK exiting the EU. BIFA and will continue to work closely with them to help ensure a successful delivery of systems that will meet the needs of our members who, at the end of the day, are responsible for facilitating a considerable proportion of the UK’s visible trade.
“It is clear that there will be many problems if the new customs system is not in place and functioning efficiently by the scheduled date that the UK is set to leave the European single market and the Customs Union in March 2019.
“Any failure in the new Customs system would most likely lead to huge disruption for businesses, with significant delays at ports and airports of entry.”