Ports head­ing for Brexit ‘cus­toms chaos’

New IT sys­tem is la­belled ‘am­a­teur­ish’ by the head of the Gov­ern­ment’s own con­sul­ta­tive com­mit­tee

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - Lizzy Bur­den By

THE head of the Gov­ern­ment’s own ex­pert cus­toms panel has warned of loom­ing chaos at ports af­ter the “am­a­teur­ish” han­dling of a new IT sys­tem.

The Goods Ve­hi­cle Move­ment Ser­vice

is in­tended to help goods flow across Bri­tain’s bor­ders and cut queues. In­dus­try groups said they were only no­ti­fied about the sys­tem in the past fort­night. Un­like France, the UK has still not tested its new cus­toms sys­tem.

Peter MacSwiney, chair­man of the HMRC-spon­sored joint cus­toms con­sul­ta­tive com­mit­tee, said busi­nesses were al­ready re-rout­ing out of Bri­tain to avoid what they ex­pect will be car­nage from Jan­uary, when the UK leaves the sin­gle mar­ket and cus­toms union.

“The GVMS re­lies on a flow of data that we don’t have,” he said. “It’s been de­vised with­out any thought of how things ac­tu­ally work in the real world. How the hell is the driver going to know what the cus­toms en­try is? It’s am­a­teur­ish.”

An 89-page con­sul­ta­tion doc­u­ment cir­cu­lated by the Gov­ern­ment to trade groups and seen by said op­er­a­tors would have a choice of a “prelodge­ment” model – where trucks car­ry­ing goods could file their pa­per­work elec­tron­i­cally away from the port – or tem­po­rary stor­age where there was ware­house space. A page for de­tail on the im­port process and prelodg­ment model was left blank.

Mr MacSwiney added that one com­mer­cial body that li­aises with HMRC on cus­toms had de­vel­oped an al­ter­na­tive sys­tem and pre­sented it to the Bor­der De­liv­ery Group in 2018.

“That sys­tem can de­liver what HMRC needs but they ap­pear to be un­will­ing to ac­cept a com­mer­cial so­lu­tion,” he said.

Rod McKen­zie, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Road Haulage As­so­ci­a­tion, de­scribed the draft text as “in­com­pre­hen­si­ble pie-in-the-sky” think­ing.

“I could’ve writ­ten it three years ago,” he said. “The Cab­i­net Of­fice is cagey. We can’t get use­ful in­for­ma­tion out of them.

“It’s a sham­bles be­cause they’re hop­ing there will be a free trade agree­ment but ‘last minute’ won’t work. There are 10,000 trucks ar­riv­ing at Dover a day.

“We need to know what the cus­toms pro­ce­dure will be, that peo­ple are ca­pa­ble of in­putting the data, that peo­ple have been re­cruited and trained to process the data and that the IT sys­tem is built and tested.”

A Gov­ern­ment spokesman said it will pub­lish a model for new bor­der oper­a­tions next month. “We are con­tin­u­ing our prepa­ra­tions for the end of the tran­si­tion pe­riod and the in­tro­duc­tion of new bor­der con­trols, in­clud­ing by pro­vid­ing £84m to grow the cus­toms in­ter­me­di­ary sec­tor to en­com­pass EU trade af­ter 2020.

“We are reg­u­larly en­gag­ing with in­dus­try as plans de­velop, in par­tic­u­lar with re­gard to a new IT sys­tem.”

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