MPs slam HMRC's 'deeply worrying' lack of post-Brexit customs system

Angelo Anderson
November 14, 2017

MPs say that a failure to introduce a new customs system by the time of Brexit would be catastrophic and lead to massive queues at Dover.

The parliamentarians estimated that the number of declarations that customs must process each year could increase from 55 million to 255 million.

The committee said: "A failed customs system could therefore lead to huge disruption for businesses, with delays potentially causing massive queues at Dover and resulting in food being left to rot in trucks at the border".

The committee's chairwoman, Labour MP Meg Hillier, said: 'Failure to have a viable customs system in place before the UK's planned exit from the European Union would wreak havoc for United Kingdom business, trade and our global reputation.

The committee said, "Under current plans, the United Kingdom is set to leave the European single market and the customs union in March 2019".

'Much remains to be done to have an effective Customs Declaration Service in place, on time, and that traders know how to use'.

According to the Committee's report, "It would be catastrophic if HM Revenue & Customs' (HMRC) new customs system, the Customs Declaration Service (CDS), is not ready in time and if there is no viable fall-back option".

And, in a report published today, it urged HMRC to step up the urgency of its conversation with the Treasury to get the £7.3m of funding needed to upgrade CHIEF to be able to deal with the potential 255m declarations that could be made each year.

In its report, Brexit and the future of Customs, the committee also warned that HMRC is managing an unsustainable amount of change with 15 programmes and 250 projects in its transformation portfolio.

"Only four per cent of United Kingdom firms making customs declarations are "trusted traders", with less red tape on the movement of goods, far below the numbers in Germany". HMRC requires a relatively small sum to upgrade the current CHIEF system-a move which would provide some peace of mind to traders, many of whom are still operating with limited information and in great uncertainty.

Despite this, top officials from the tax agency have told MPs the programme is on track and well governed, but have admitted that some risks remain that could jeopardise the already tight timetable.

The report also calls for HMRC to improve its engagement with traders and keep them abreast of the CDS timeline; to "urgently prioritise and make hard decisions" with regard to its "unsustainable" amount of transformation projects; and to report back to the PAC on progress made by March 2018.

She said: "This is deeply worrying".

During the transition between the two systems, the old version would operate in tandem with the new one, he added.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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