Businesses and transport associations warned that Britain may be headed for “disaster” as the British Government this week announced plans for €800 million in funding for new border infrastructure to prepare for controls after the post-Brexit transition ends.
According to a report in euronews, the investment is made up of €525 million for infrastructure at ports and inland locations to handle with customs controls together with a further €262 million to be spent on 500 border staff and IT systems. Last week, the Guardian newspaper highlighted that the government has secretly purchased a site 20 miles from Dover in Ashford, Kent that will act as a customs clearance facility for at least some of the 10,000 trucks that arrive from Calais every day.
Bloomberg also reported on government plans to implement a brand-new IT system known as Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS). Transport and moving companies will need a GVMS reference number before they are allowed to leave the UK for the European Union and will do this by entering shipment information. A 208-page government guide to importing and exporting after Brexit advises companies to use a customs agent or freight forwarder to enter the information or buy software to access the GVMS direct. Other requirements include applying for an Economic Operator’s Registration and Identification Number, to comply with licences and VAT accounting.
In response, business and industry groups expressed concern about the preparations. Speaking on behalf of the UK’s Road Haulage Association’s Rod McKenzie, said the IT system and whether it would be ready on time was “a cocktail for potential disaster at the moment. We’re going to have a new customs border process, but we don’t yet know what it is. We don’t know what we will have to do to export goods to the EU. We’re reliant on an IT system which we don’t know will work.” Experts have also pointed out that it took France over a year to develop and test its own IT system for checks brought about by Brexit.
Last week the European Commission published their own guidance to transport companies in the European Union that includes “thorough” border checks to be applied following the full exit of the United Kingdom. It said the extra costs and red tape were the natural consequence of the UK’s decision to leave the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union.