Northern Irish firms in line for taxpayer subsidies to ease Brexit customs red tape
FIRMS in Northern Ireland could get direct subsidies from the taxpayer to prevent them from collapsing under a deluge of Brexit customs red tape, The
Daily Telegraph has learned. HMRC is expected to announce this week that it is considering “a service to run for at least two years to support businesses with new administrative processes under the Northern Ireland Protocol and will be free at the point of use”.
It comes in addition to the £50m fund for companies across the UK to help train staff in customs skills and to upgrade their IT systems to be compatible with the Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS), HMRC’s own new platform, ahead of the end of the transition period at the close of the year.
The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium had expressed concern that some businesses may struggle to deal with the complexity of the new system, which requires them to enter goods’ safety, security, transit and export declarations to generate a single code. The
“goods movement reference” would then be submitted by lorry drivers before arriving at ports to prevent queues.
A survey by the Institute of Directors (IoD) in January also found that 41pc of about 1,000 members trade goods across the Irish Sea.
Of those, almost two thirds said new costs, paperwork and delays to trade would have a negative impact on their business, and 34pc said they would change their commercial terms with suppliers to compensate.
The new scheme is intended to address this by funding businesses to hire intermediaries to complete the electronic paperwork on their behalf.
However, John Martin, Northern Ireland policy manager of the Road
Haulage Association, warned the system would be open to abuse if intermediaries in turn increased their rates.
He added: “If you don’t have the systems in place, no matter how much support the Government provides for intermediaries to do the work, the intermediaries need to recruit and train the staff. We need clarity as soon as possible. The last thing we need is queues around ports because the paperwork isn’t right.”
Allie Renison, head of EU and trade policy at the IoD, said: “This would be a welcome move to take a load off businesses, but only a small part of what businesses need to help prepare.”
Seamus Leheny, policy manager for Northern Ireland for the Freight Transport Association, called on the Government to ringfence part of the £50m training budget for small businesses in Northern Ireland. However, HMRC said a discussion about the funding would not take place until its next meeting with industry on the EU transition, which could be as late as November, according to sources.
HMRC did not comment.