United Kingdom faces 'catastrophic' border chaos if customs are not fixed before Brexit

Elias Hubbard
November 14, 2017

It said huge disruption would follow for businesses, with food being left to rot in trucks at the border.

The influential all-party Public Accounts Committee has warned that if the new Customs Declaration Service planned to be brought in is delayed, it would result in food rotting in trucks at the border and serious congestion. It would be catastrophic if HM Revenue & Customs' new customs system, the Customs Declaration Service, is not ready in time and if there is no viable fall-back option.

Lorry-loads of food will rot in traffic jams at the United Kingdom border after Brexit and hundreds of millions of shipments of other goods could be stranded in queues, if HM Revenue and Customs does not get the money it needs to beef up its declarations systems.

According to the Committee's report, "It would be catastrophic if HM Revenue & Customs' (HMRC) new customs system, the Customs Declaration Service (CDS), is not ready in time and if there is no viable fall-back option".

"HMRC tells us it is merely "in conversation" over CHIEF upgrade costs when, on behalf of business and the British public, it should be banging on the doors of the Treasury".

That figure could increase five-fold to 255 million following the UK's exit from the European Union, requiring the new system - the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) - to be in operation and Treasury funding secured for contingency options, according to MPs. The report warns Government must do more to work with businesses and ensure contingency option in place well before January 2019.

The committee stresses an upgrade of the current CHIEF customs system, is of "national importance that could have a huge reputational impact for the United Kingdom if it is not delivered successfully".

She said: 'This is deeply worrying.

"This is a programme of national importance that could have a huge reputational impact for the United Kingdom if it is not delivered successfully".

In a report published today, the PAC said HMRC can not use the uncertainty regarding the outcome of Brexit negotiations as an excuse to delay taking action now, and warned of the "catastrophic" consequences of leaving the European Union without a viable system in place.

Despite this, top officials from the tax agency have told MPs the programme is on track and well governed, but have admitted that some risks remain that could jeopardise the already tight timetable. It says "delay is not an option".

HMRC boss John Thompson warned MPs last month that he would need significantly more staff if Britain was to cope properly with a collapse in negotiations with Brussels over trade deals. It argues that HMRC must prioritise CDS to ensure a successful delivery.

It also urged HMRC to ensure that the CDS system and the CHIEF contingency option are capable of managing 255m customs declarations every year, while providing the flexibility to meet the wider challenges of an integrated customs and trade system for the United Kingdom, such as managing changes to tariffs, free trade agreements and worldwide trade quotas.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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