Driving To Deliver Your Business

Food left rotting in trucks, miles of queues and disruption for business

The UK Government has been urged to take instant action to prevent chaos at Welsh ports in the wake of a major report which warns of a “catastrophic” outcome if a new custom system is not ready by the time of Brexit. The cross-party Public Accounts Committee warns that the number of customs declarations made by traders could increase from around 55 million in 2015 to 255 million after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019. The MPs say it would be “catastrophic” if HMRC’s new Customs Declaration Service (CDS) is not ready and if there is no viable fall-back system.

They fear “huge disruption for businesses” with “massive queues” at Dover and “food being left to rot in trucks at the border”.

There is already concern about how Holyhead would cope with delays in processing lorries

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Anglesey Labour MP Albert Owen has strong concerns about the threat to Welsh ports. He warned of chaos and stressed the need for a customs union with Ireland – either a new one or by keeping existing arrangements in place. He said: “I have been raising these issues and I think the Government doesn’t quite understand the magnitude of it… [There] needs to be in my opinion an customs union with Ireland…

“Because if we don’t have anything in place there will be chaos at ports and it puts UK ports at risk.” Stressing the need for the UK Government to take action, he said: “It is going to be chaotic and the Government needs to do something about it instantly… The Irish Government understands this, and they understand it from their perspective and the UK’s perspective and I think it’s just dogma by the [UK Government] that’s preventing them coming to a sensible arrangement.”

The Public Accounts Committee underscores the importance of getting a new system in place, stating: “This is a programme of national importance that could have a huge reputational impact for the UK if it is not delivered successfully.” It emphasises the need for HMRC to increase its capacity to cope with 255 million declarations and insists there must be a “viable contingency option” in place “well before January 2019”. The MPs warn: “This is a tight timetable at the best of times.

With the hard deadline of Brexit, delay is not an option. The Treasury needs to ensure there is funding in place to develop contingency options so that there are no barriers to continuity of service.” HMRC expects 132,000 traders will have to make customs declarations for the first time after Brexit.

Future trade and travel arrangements with the Republic of Ireland could influence Fishguard’s prosperity

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Islwyn Labour MP Chris Evans, a member of the Public Accounts Committee, said: “Under current plans we are going to leave the European single market and customs union in March 2019…

We’re halfway through November and it seems really concerning that we don’t have anything in place for the Customs Declaration Service. “This would put immense pressure on our ports around Wales… This is going to take a lot of time and I’m really deeply concerned that we’re not going to have enough time to do this.”

Warning of “food rotting in trucks,” he said the Government appeared to have been “sitting on its hands since the referendum”. This week Plaid Cymru MP Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP Jonathan Edwards took the opportunity to warn Brexit Secretary David Davis of the “disastrous consequences a hard border between Wales and the Republic of Ireland” would have for the Welsh ports of Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke Dock. Mr Davis said: “The Government policy is to deliver a frictionless trade arrangement between ourselves and the EU27, most importantly of all I think [with] the Republic of Ireland.”

A report by Moody’s earlier this month warned that Holyhead had “little or no space available to accommodate any delays in the movement of passengers and trucks”. It stressed that Holyhead is “an important route for the transport of goods, including a significant amount of perishables”.

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A UK Government spokeswoman 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 (CHIEF) 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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