According to one of the most high-profile figures in the customs industry of Britain who is also the chairperson of a key committee advising the government, the customs system of the United Kingdom is not yet ready for Brexit – and it could still take another three years to actually be prepared.
In an interview with Sky News, Peter MacSwiney, the chairperson of the Brexit committee at the Joint Customs Consultative Committee (JCCC), said that the plans had been “left to the last minute.”
The JCCC represents the leading players in the industry and liaises with both the UK government and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) regarding the implications of Brexit.
Leaving the European Union will result in a profound change in the way goods are transported between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
If the United Kingdom withdraws from the customs union of the European Union, hauliers from Britain will be required to apply to more wide-ranging, and probably, onerous regulations.
The number of declarations that will now be required to be handled is likely to rise from around 55 milion per year up to more than 300 million.
Last March, in a letter that was seen by reported, some trade members of the JCCC criticised the HMRC for taking too long to pass on vital information regarding how to prepare for an uncertain future.
It stated: “The trade membership is concerned about the quality of consultation with HMRC in preparation for a potential no-deal departure from the EU.”
It added: “We are collective of the opinion that members are not ready for a no-deal exit.”
MacSwiney said that he agreed with the sentiment of the note. He also released a warning that the preparations for Brexit had been too slow and that some of the systems were not yet ready and that he had not noticed any viable “technological” solution to the likely problem of customs checks on the Irish border.
He stated: “I don’t think HMRC have taken enough time to explain what we have to do.”
He added: “Left it to the last minute and given people no time to prepare.”
He continued: “If we ended up leaving on 12 April, HMRC would be ready with their infrastructure and computer systems, but the problem would be everything that goes on round that – the way that the information gets put into the system.”
He concluded: “That isn’t ready. Nowhere near.”