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Delays to import controls will only put off the inevitable, says Logistics UK

[ March 31, 2022   //   ]

Logistics UK says that any further delays to the introduction of post-Brexit border checks on imports will simply postpone the inevitable, and send mixed signals to businesses that have been urged for months to get ready for increased customs controls from 1 July.

It follows press reports that Boris Johnson is considering a further delay to the introduction of import checks on goods arriving from the EU.

Head of International Policy, Sarah Laouadi, said: “Despite the ongoing pressures on supply chains caused by the war in Ukraine, Russian sanctions and the Covid-19 pandemic, logistics businesses need the certainty for planning which a deadline provides. After three other false starts for the introduction of import controls from the EU, it is time for Government to make a clear commitment to a deadline and ensure the necessary facilities, staff and processes are in place and ready to cope with the volume and patterns of trade by that deadline. The longer the uncertainty continues, the more difficult it will be for government and UK traders to generate a sense of urgency to focus the minds of supply chain partners and officials in getting ready for new trading arrangements.”

She added: “If Government has sufficient evidence to conclude that sticking to the planned timetable would jeopardise the supply of key imports into the country, we urge ministers to share the relevant data about bottlenecks and gaps in readiness and produce key actions to lift these obstacles. Logistics UK stands ready to commit its expertise and communication channels to help design a revised action plan and timetable that will not have to be shifted again. 

“Another delay to the border checks will simply kick the issue down the road, with no clear idea on when the situation will be resolved. Businesses need stability, clarity and certainty which constant delays do not deliver.”  

However, Laouadi says there is still much work to be done, particularly regarding the movement of goods to and from Ireland: 

“Much has been said about the Northern Ireland Protocol and, clearly, there is still work to be done.  Currently, no controls are imposed on goods entering GB from the Island of Ireland (NI and ROI) and while this situation has avoided issues for NI businesses sending goods across the Irish Sea, there is still no means of differentiating goods and providing proof of origin without stringent controls that would breach the government’s guarantee of unfettered access for NI business to the GB market. More work needs to be done on this, and quickly, to keep the smooth flow of goods moving.” 

She concluded: “We need our EU traders to get ready for a post-Brexit trading relationship now, not at some undetermined date in the future. Logistics businesses stand ready to keep goods moving to and from the UK, but need certainty to maintain the ability of the nation’s businesses to trade effectively with the EU in the future.”

In an interview with FBJ, chairman of specialist software firm ASM and chairman of the Joint Customs Consultative Committee (JCCC) and EU Transition Sub Group, Peter MacSwiney said that traders and freight forwarders remain in the dark over whether the UK government will push ahead with imposing safety and security (S&S) declarations and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) declarations for UK imports as scheduled from 1 July this year. There is also confusion over whether HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will be able to make use of the new Customs Declaration System (CDS) mandatory for imports in September, when it is due to replace the existing Chief computer.

However, , said that the official line from HMRC and Border Force, as outlined to a BIFA meeting last year, was that the S&S and SPS deadlines remained in place. However, MacSwiney added that secondary legislation was in place that would allow the deadlines to be put back.

MacSwiney added that the uncertainty over import checks was distracting companies from preparing for the introduction of the new CDS customs computer from 1 September.

If customers were unable to use CDS, and if its use became mandatory on 1 September, it could lead to chaos at ports such as Dover, warned MacSwiney. He had told HMRC that it would have to be prepared for chaos.

(More in the next printed issue of FBJ – FBJ 3 2022)

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