Freight News, IT, Logistics, Business

ASM walks away from ‘unworkable’ Ulster Brexit plan

[ November 11, 2020   //   ]

Customs clearance software firm Agency Sector Management (ASM) says it will not support HMRC’s CHIEF replacement CDS for shipments in and out of Northern Ireland, citing an unacceptable level of risk,  no workable contingency plan and a lack of user support.

In a letter to HMRC chief executive and first permanent secretary, Jim Harra, ASM said there was no realistic chance of releasing a CDS compliant solution, training users and helpdesk staff before the end of March 2021. Any release would carry the risk of significant reputational damage.

The original UK-wide plan for CDS migration and shut down of Chief was scheduled for September 2020. However, after extensive meetings with community service providers, HMRC accepted that this date was totally unachievable and a realistic, albeit challenging date, of the end of 2021 adopted. This date was conditional on the CDS Program delivering some functions and changes in agreed timescales but not all of these milestones were met. Whilst some organisations may have been able to accelerate their timescales not everyone has been able to do so and there are significant sectors of trade that will not be ready for 1 January, says ASM.

When it was announced that CDS was the intended solution for delivery of the NI Protocol and would be required to go live on 1 January 2021 ASM carried out a review of its readiness for that date. It established that with an amount of de-scoping it was possible that a rudimentary solution could be available available for supplementary import declarations towards the end of 2020. But there was no possibility of inventory linked import or export functionality being available as there were, and remain significant gaps in some aspects of required functionality in both the CSPs’ and the core HMRC CDS system. There are still blocking issues on export declarations, revenue creating import declarations and export dual running (inventory linking etc. when both CHIEF and CDS are in use).

ASM also had and still has significant reservations over the level of technical support that HMRC can provide. In  the letter it said: “Supporting ten live users making a few thousand declarations a month is a very different proposition from handling the expected one million inbound NI and 40,000 outbound shipments per month. CDS is not only a change of computer system, it is a change of data elements and Customs regulations. It is not widely understood amongst our users, who are predominately intermediaries and is even less well known among the end users, importers and exporters, who are required to provide the additional data that will be required. Many of the relationships between intermediaries and their customers are based on electronic data exchange so any changes in what is required may involve changes to both of their internal systems. These changes typically take up to 18 months to complete.”

It concluded: “£Taking all of this into consideration we consider that there is a totally unacceptable level of risk in mandating CDS and not having any workable contingency plans. There is no benefit to trade in using CDS, it is a decision based on the requirement to operate the UK and the EU tariff concurrently and the requirement to supply the EU with surveillance data. The spectre of paralysing the whole NI’s trade movements is real and we do not think that the TSS [Trader Support Service] can mitigate this to an acceptable level. We would urge you to start to look at viable alternatives, ideally using CHIEF which is currently in use and widely understood by all parties involved in trade with NI.”