Customs industry 'not ready for Brexit'


The head of an industry committee says plans for the system of transporting goods after Brexit have been left to the last minute.

Peter MacSwiney is chair of the Brexit committee at the Joint Customs Consultative Committee (JCCC). It represents the leading players in the industry and liaises with both the government and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) about the implications of Brexit.

Leaving the European Union will lead to a profound change in the way goods are transported between the UK and the European Union. If the UK moves out of the EU customs union, British hauliers will need to apply to more wide-ranging, and probably, onerous regulations.

The number of declarations that will now need to be handled is likely to increase from around 55 million per year up to more than 300 million.

Last month, trade members of the JCCC criticised HMRC for taking too long to pass on vital details about how to prepare for an uncertain future.
“The trade membership is concerned about the quality of consultation with HMRC in preparation for a potential no-deal departure from the EU,” it said.

Mr MacSwiney said: “I don’t think HMRC have taken enough time to explain what we have to do. Left it to the last minute and given people no time to prepare. When Brexit first happened, the industry wanted a three-year transition period and we said that three years of planning would be a minimum. And, as we stand here now, we’ve only had six months since discussions started in earnest. The problem for us will be dealing with the huge increase in declarations and the only way to cope with that is more automation.”

Included on that list is the enduring problem of how to rethink customs controls on the Irish border, particularly if Britain were to leave without a deal.

“I cannot see that there is a viable solution to the border, and I don’t think technology is the answer,” he told Sky News.

An HMRC spokesperson said: “For more than two years we have been preparing extensively to ensure people and businesses are prepared for a no-deal scenario. The government is continuing with its no-deal preparations to ensure the country is ready for every eventuality.”