North­ern Ir­ish firms in line for tax­payer sub­si­dies to ease Brexit cus­toms red tape

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

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.

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