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Audit office warns of ‘meltdown’ if Chief replacement fails

[ July 13, 2017   //   ]

The head of the National Audit Office has warned that a collapse of Customs’ new computer system could throw the UK into chaos after Brexit, on the day that the Government was due to publish its ‘Great repeal Bill’.

In a strongly-worded statement, auditor general Sir Amyas Morse said that the Customs Declaration System (CDS), due to replace the ageing CHIEF computer, could become “a horror show”.

He said that CDS was due to be introduced in January 2019, only weeks before the March 2019 Brexit deadline, and that serious problems could result should it over-run – a very plausible scenario with major IT projects.

Older FBJ readers will recall the chaos that ensued at the UK’s airports in1986 when a replacement for the then HM Customs LACES computer failed to perform, with cargo piling on the tarmac.

A few weeks ago, the CCS-UK airfreight community system unveiled a fallback system, saying that part of the motivation would be to provide a back-up in the event of CDS experiencing teething problems. However, other freight community systems used in the UK’s major seaports currently have no such back-up in place.

British Ports Association’s chief executive, Richard meanwhile pointed out that leaving the Customs Union “will almost certainly mean that freight carriers moving between the UK and the EU will be required to provide customs declarations, potentially leading to congestion at ports. It is vital that the new customs arrangements are non-disruptive and in place in time to ensure that important parts of the freight and ports industry is not faced with a ‘cliff edge’ Brexit scenario.”

He also called for the EU Port Services Regulation to be repealed as part of the Great Repeal Bill as it was “unwanted and unnecessary in the UK’s competitive ports sector,” adding: We will also be encouraging the Government to give real consideration to amending legislation which could allow for fast track planning and consenting at ports to help stimulate economic growth and trade.”

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