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FTA Tells MPs its Priorities for Brexit

FTA Tells MPs its Priorities for Brexit

There are five priorities for customs and border control after Brexit, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has told parliament.

The FTA says there will be a dire financial impact on the transport and logistics industry if systems are not put in place to manage the extra work that leaving the EU will create – an additional 300m customs declarations by 2019. So, James Hookham, FTA Deputy chief executive, stressed the need to be proactive when he appeared before a Home Affairs Committee session at the end of last month.

He told MPs that a port delay of just one hour can cost a road haulage firm £15,000, which means a streamlined customs process is an absolute must. Mr Hookham hopes prime minister Theresa May can deliver her pledge of a 'tariff-free and frictionless' Brexit. But if she can't, or if the negotiations are as lengthy as expected, then he says it's vital the government heeds the five key haulage issues identified by the FTA.

The FTA's priorities are:

  • Scaling up the UK's customs systems so they are ready to meet the extra demand.
  • Giving UK shippers, forwarders and transport operators adequate opportunity to learn the processes for EU customs declarations - the FTA says time to adapt is necessary because Europe has enjoyed open borders for 24 years. 
  • Seeking cooperation from other EU countries to prevent delays at non-UK borders.
  • Enabling advanced digital customs declarations in order to avoid physical border checks.
  • Employment of a phased-in approach, so systems that are already dealing with a heavy workload are not put under too much pressure.

The Home Affairs Committee appeared to take note of the warnings given by Hookham, and recognised the knock-on effect for other areas of the economy. After the session, Chair Yvette Cooper said: “I’m very concerned about the evidence we have heard and the way this could hit manufacturing.”

One of the main obstacles to a smooth Brexit for haulage firms is said to be inadequate technology. The government IT system currently in place is the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight service (Chief), which manages 50m declarations a year. Although the system being developed to replace it was originally intended to manage 100m declarations, industry experts say there is now a need for a 350m capacity.

The £87.4m Customs Declaration System (CDS) is due to go live in 2018, but the government has a poor track record for its software projects and there are fears that CDS will prove to be yet another expensive failure.

According to Desmond Hiscock, director-general of the UK Association for International Trade, there is rising frustration over the risks and uncertainties surrounding CDS. He said: “The existing system will be not be able to cope and there is not much confidence that the untested and still incomplete replacement, CDS, will fare much better.”  

However, HMRC remains confident CDS will be fit for purpose. A spokesman said the new system will have increased capacity as well as being more flexible and 'functional' than Chief.