Industry reacts to UK customs check plans
The UK government has confirmed it will introduce import controls on EU goods coming over the border at the end of this year. The announcement confirms what was the widely expected result of the government’s plan to exit the EU’s customs union and single market and strike trade deals.
We look at how retail and logistics trade bodies responded to the news.
Freight Transport Association
Elizabeth de Jong, FTA’s UK Policy Director said: “Today’s announcements about the UK’s future relationship with Europe provide more much-needed clarity for logistics operators, and his assertion that there will be no extension to the transition period gives businesses a finite deadline to which to work. The news of funding to help industry prepare for operation outside the EU is certainly welcome, whatever the outcome of the negotiations.
“Mr Gove put to rest Sajid Javid’s assertion that industry had plenty of time to prepare. It is encouraging for industry that he said he does not underestimate what needs to be done and that he has his civil servants focussed on capturing and providing industry with the details we need, we hope within the timeframes we need to prepare.
“As representatives of the logistics industry, we are naturally disappointed that the promise of frictionless trade has been replaced with a promise that trade will be as seamless as possible but not until 2025, with a more realistic but costly “make do and mend” approach to be employed until then. Industry will need the support of government during this period to Keep Britain Trading effectively.”
British Retail Consortium
Andrew Opie, Director of Food & Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Government will need to move fast if it intends to provide the necessary infrastructure to carry out full border controls on imported goods from January 2021.Without the necessary infrastructure up and running from day one, consumers in the UK will see significant disruption, particularly in the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables.
“The Government needs to establish import and export processes along with necessary infrastructure capable of conducting checks on rules of origin, SPS, VAT and more1. Staffwill need to be hired and trained to carry out these checks on the thousands of lorries that enter the UK every day. IT systems must be adapted and tested. Holding facilities for lorries, particularly at Dover and Folkestone, will need to be constructed. It is not enough to announce checks will take place, we must see plans now as to how this will be possible in practice, or it will be consumers who suffer on 1st January 2021.”
Road Haulage Association
In a letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps MP, RHA chief executive called for more information from government to allow businesses to prepare in time for the deadline.
“We need HMRC to clearly define the process so that we can understand how many customs agents will be required to support traders and hauliers.”
He criticised the lack of a firm deadline for when the customs processes would be published and warned that there could be a shortfall of customs agents.
Bobbie Ttooulis, Executive Director at Global Freight Solutions, said:
“Retailers can no longer ignore the impact that Brexit has on their businesses, especially as border control changes the impact on customer delivery. It’s crucial that they forecast for changes to border procedures, documentation, duties, taxes and pressures that will impact their supply chains.
“While Brexit has been initiated, uncertainty still hangs over trade. So, the safest best is to prepare for tough border controls. Long delays at the ports are going to be part and parcel for this new Brexit reality. If your business ships into the EU, and in the event of a backlog at the Channel tunnel for instance, partners will need to be able to divert product from the road to the air to avoid delays to the end customer. Adopting a paperless clearance system will also help minimise delays from reading handwritten documents, plus ensuring you have the right European Union Registration and Identification Number. An 8 or 10-digit HS code (Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System) will also need to be supplied to support efficient customs clearance and enable accurate duty and tax calculations.
“Delays in the supply chain, caused by custom checks will lead to retailers being forced to hold more stock in their supply chain than they’re used to. This will have a direct financial impact on those businesses, who’ll either need to expand storage capabilities or hire more staff to cope with the increased volume of stock. Ultimately, communication and transparency will be key. Transparency of the resulting duties and tax cost incurred to customers at the checkout, as well as communication at each stage of the delivery journey, will minimise disruptions and keep customers on side.”