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Peer warns of Customs crisis, quoting FBJ

[ December 6, 2017   //   ]

Labour peer Lord Campbell-Savours warned that the UK could face a shortage of customs officers after Brexit, quoting FBJ, in a Lords debate on the future of UK trade and customs policy on 5 December.

Describing Freight Business Journal as “an excellent publication if you want to keep abreast of Brexit transport issues”, he said that the Government had downsized HM Revenue & Customs capabilities in this area, removing trained officers from many ports and put a good proportion of those that remained at its centralised operation in Salford. France now has 35 times as many customs officers as the UK…Many of HMRC’s top level managers with trade expertise have now retired.”

Lord Campbell-Savours, who when he ran a business had experience of visiting the Dover Customs Long Room to make customs entries in the 1960s, also warned that road hauliers were likely to bear the brunt of increased costs resulting from customs delays.

He also raised the question of whether UK hauliers would have to obtain CEMT permits after Brexit.

A further “nightmare scenario” was stacking of trucks on the motorway near the Channel ports, which could mean further charges.

As for the proposed electronic border, backed up by number plate recognition, in-country clearance and trusted trader status both here and abroad, it could be a white van smuggler’s dream, argued Lord Campbell-Savours.

Companies with trusted trader status could perhaps use systems similar to those used to register vehicles in and out of the Mont Blanc tunnel in Northern Ireland as an alternative to destination clearance, he said. “But there are three major problems: first, white van evasion; secondly, number plate switching on trailers, which is very easily carried out; and thirdly, of course, the DUP.”

He also questions whether HMRC’s new CDS computer system, due to go into service two months before Brexit, would be able to deliver.

Lord Campbell-Savours also cited information given to him by Channel Ports Ltd managing director, Paul Wells: “Regardless of whether the actual transmission of an entry is electronic or not it still requires an entry clerk to prepare it by looking at the invoice, checking the value and currency, the weights, the number of packages, the truck number, calculating the VAT and or duty and obtaining it from the importer and sending it over to Motis … who pass it on to customs.”

Mr Wells said that there are only 200 entry clerks left in East Kent compared with 2,000 before 1992, while meanwhile the number of trucks has gone up by 400%. “A hard border will need 400% more entry clerks in other words, nearly 8,000.

“We can also surmise that they will need their counterparts in Europe”, so it is estimated that a further 7,800 entry clerks will be needed across Europe.”

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