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UK faces ‘catastrophic’ border chaos if customs are not fixed before Brexit 

Lorry-loads of food will rot in traffic jams at the UK 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.
The number of declarations is set to rise from 55m per year to 255m when Britain leaves the EU and its single market.
But MPs have warned that the current systems in place to handle this traffic are incapable of managing such large amounts of work – and urgently need to be bolstered.
“Failure to have a viable customs system in place before the UK’s planned exit from the EU would wreak havoc for UK business, trade and our international reputation. Confidence would collapse amid the potentially catastrophic effects,” said Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
“HMRC is under considerable pressure to deliver the new Customs Declaration Service (CDS) in time, but it does not yet have funding to increase the capacity of CDS to deal with the consequences of Brexit – nor to develop contingency options. This is deeply worrying.”
The current system can be upgraded at a cost of ?7.3m, but MPs said “we are surprised to hear that HMRC and HM Treasury (HMT) are still only ‘in conversation’” over the funding.
“This would seem a relatively small sum to pay to guard against the wider financial and reputational costs of failure,” the Committee’s report said.
“It needs to progress this work urgently and obtain the additional funding required.”
The MPs want the Treasury to ensure HMRC has the funds it needs by the end of next month to start ramping up their capabilities.
UK faces ‘catastrophic’ border chaos if customs are not fixed before Brexit 

HMRC needs ?7.3m for the upgrade of its customs system to prepare for higher volumes of declarations post-Brexit

Credit:
Steven May/Alamy
They also want HMRC to make more use of the “trusted traders” scheme which vets companies and allows those deemed to be low-risk to use more simplified declarations, saving time and effort for the traders and the authorities.
Just 604 traders use this system out of the 141,000 overall who speak to HMRC in the course of their international trade.
By contrast more than 6,000 German traders use their version of the system.
“Both HMRC and trusted traders benefit from this reduction in administration,” said the MPs, advising HMRC to start promoting it to traders now.
“HMRC is not currently promoting trusted trader status, despite accepting that having more of them would indeed be a good idea. It says it would only start to do so when the future of the UK’s customs system is determined.”
A government spokesperson said: “The Customs Declaration Service is on track for delivery by January 2019 and has the capacity to deal with a significant increase in customs declarations at the border. We’ve already allocated over half a billion pounds in funding to ensure a successful exit from the EU and we will have a fully functioning UK customs service on day one post Brexit. 
“HMRC will continue to operate the current service in tandem with CDS during the transition from one system to the other. This will provide an additional level of contingency, should it be required.”
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