The government says it fully acknowledges the potential capacity challenges facing the customs intermediaries sector in the unlikely event of no deal being reached before the UK leaves the EU on 29 March, 2019.
Therefore, HM Treasury and HMRC have designed a package of measures to support the intermediaries sector to expand ahead of March 2019. This will include a one-off investment of £8 million to support broker training and increased automation.
Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride, said: “HM Treasury and HMRC have been engaging extensively with the customs intermediaries sector on EU exit, including customs brokers, freight forwarders and fast parcel operators. We have listened to their concerns about the extra demand for customs broker services in the unlikely event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal in March 2019. That is why we plan to invest £8m for customs training and automation to support the sector to expand to help meet the potential increase in demand for this scenario.”
Robert Keen, Director General of the British International Freight Association (BIFA) said: “BIFA has had many meetings with both HM Treasury and HMRC in which we highlighted our concerns regarding the capability of the customs brokerage sector to increase capacity. We have explained that the sector already faces a massive shortage of staff of suitable quality. We have emphasised that it could take up to a year to train staff to be fully conversant to prepare a range of basic customs declarations, even if there were sufficient trainers to train those staff, as well as relevant courses for them to attend. The impending introduction of the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) will only compound the problem as the sector would be retraining staff to move from the current system (CHIEF: Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight) to CDS, as well as potential new entrants that would be needed to process entries in the event of no trade deal being agreed by March 2019.”
Mr Keen said that he now required much greater detail from government about how to access the funding, how long the funding will be available, what it will cover and who qualifies.