The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)

Cus­toms charges shelved

Off­shore sec­tor was fac­ing £145m

- BY AL­LIS­TER THOMAS

Cus­toms charges for the off­shore in­dus­try worth up to £145 mil­lion which were set to start in July have been pushed back by nearly a year.

Brexit min­is­ter Robin Walker and ex­che­quer sec­re­tary to the Trea­sury Robert Jen­nick made the an­nounce­ment dur­ing a visit to Aberdeen yes­ter­day.

It was re­vealed last week that HMRC would im­ple­ment the charges this sum­mer, cost­ing as much as £145m and £120m each year af­ter that.

The charges now won’t come into force un­til next April and could be pushed back fur­ther if the in­dus­try can prove the dead­line isn’t suf­fi­cient.

The UK Gov­ern­ment in­sists the charges come fol­low­ing a de­ci­sion by the EU Com­mis­sion over ship work end re­lief and are not re­lated to Brexit.

Mr Jen­nick said: “We have looked at it and this is a de­ci­sion that was taken by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion.

“It is a mat­ter that we op­posed and ar­gued against in Europe but a de­ci­sion was taken and we want to en­sure that we do ev­ery­thing we can to sup­port the in­dus­try here.

“To­day I was able to an­nounce that we’re mov­ing the date of im­ple­men­ta­tion from July un­til at least April 2019.

“We’ll also be lis­ten­ing

“It is a mat­ter that we op­posed and ar­gued against in Europe”

to the in­dus­try and work­ing with them to see how we can make it work as best as possible for them if there are any imag­i­na­tive so­lu­tions that to­gether we can come up with to avoid or mit­i­gate the mea­sure.

“I told the in­dus­try that if they were able to bring for­ward the ev­i­dence that even the ex­tended dead­line of April next year isn’t suf­fi­cient, that we’re open to look­ing to ex­tend­ing it fur­ther and to ne­go­ti­at­ing with the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion to achieve that.”

The in­dus­try has wel­comed the news, how­ever ques­tions re­main on how the pol­icy will be put in place.

Mike Tholen, up­stream di­rec­tor at Oil and Gas UK, said: “I think in­dus­try will feel pos­i­tive that they are be­ing lis­tened to.

“The ex­tra year is a good start, whether it’s enough will de­pend quite on how it is worked in prac­tice.”

Mr Walker said there was “no in­di­ca­tion” the charges were due to Brexit, with the Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives ac­cus­ing the SNP of “scare­mon­ger­ing” over the is­sue af­ter a par­lia­men­tary de­bate last week.

The SNP’s Aberdeen­shire East MSP Gil­lian Martin said: “This is wel­come, if ex­tremely lim­ited, move­ment by the UK Gov­ern­ment.

“But if they think that de­lay­ing mil­lions of pounds in cus­toms charges on the oil and gas sec­tor makes up for the bil­lions si­phoned off the in­dus­try over the past 40 years, then they’re clearly de­tached from all re­al­ity.”

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