Freight firm boss warns over major change to customs system.
Disruption for the Yorkshire’s EU traders following any no-deal Brexit will be intensified by delays in introducing the UK’s new system for managing customs declarations, a director of a logistics business has claimed.
Adam Johnson, inset, director of Leeds-based Tudor International Freight, said the key implementation period for replacing the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system by the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) could now be coming at the worst possible time.
He said: “CHIEF was introduced about 25 years ago, to process customs declarations for all goods being shipped between the UK and non-EU countries. It’s one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated systems of this type but its weaknesses include it can no longer be adapted easily to new requirements.
“Although CHIEF’s replacement has been planned since before the Brexit referendum, delays in introducing CDS mean it’s increasingly unlikely transition to the new system will be complete by the time we’re due to leave the EU on March 29.”
Mr Johnson added that, in addition to the operational challenges of adopting a very different platform, Yorkshire’s businesses and their freight forwarders, like his own organisation, were concerned over the new system’s capacity.
A no-deal Brexit would mean trade with EU countries having to be recorded on it from the date of Britain’s departure, which would lead to a massive increase in the number of import and export declarations a largely unproven system had to handle.
Mr Johnson said companies involved in trading with non-EU countries were already aware of the extensive backlogs that could arise at ports and airports when CHIEF went down and that any such problems would compound the new import and export tariffs and other issues a no-deal Brexit would generate for the region’s EU traders.
“HMRC originally intended that CDS would be delivered in three phases, being ready for imports last November and exports this month. CHIEF, which would continue to run for a time to aid the transition, would then be withdrawn,” Mr Johnson said. “The first release of CDS went live, as planned, last August. But late last year HMRC said availability of full import functionality was being postponed until ‘after Christmas’. It also emerged that a new electronic tariff, needed for the databases software firms are producing, would be published substantially later than envisaged.”
The director of Leeds-Tudor International stressed his organisation still saw the introduction of CDS in principle as important and beneficial.
He said: “CDS, which will be accessed through a Government Gateway account, will offer several new and existing services in one place.
“These include Yorkshire’s traders and forwarders being able to view previous export and import data on pre-defined reports, check tariffs and apply for new authorisations and simplifications.
“In addition, useful online help will include self-service tools, guides and checklists. But traders and forwarders will also have to enter some additional details not required by CHIEF, including an audit trail of previous document IDs, additional party types – such as buyers and sellers – and potentially additional commercial references or tracking numbers too.”
Last month, Mr Johnson called on the Government to provide more certainty over Brexit arrangements
It’s one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated systems.