British MPs warn of 'catastrophic' customs failure after Brexit

Brexit: failure to update customs system could be 'catastrophic'

"Confidence would collapse amid the potentially catastrophic effects".

The committee added, "In the context of the CDS programme, this would seem a relatively small sum to pay to guard against the wider financial and reputational costs of failure".

'The Treasury needs to ensure there is funding in place to develop contingency options so that there are no barriers to continuity of service.

It confirms data that a no deal Brexit would mean a fivefold increase in the number of customs declarations, with 132,000 companies facing the red tape of declarations for the first time.

As a member of the EU's customs union, the United Kingdom does not impose taxes or require customs declarations on goods from other member states - but as part of Brexit, ministers plan to leave the customs union and negotiate a new arrangement in its place.

If the CDS is "not ready in time and if there is no viable fall-back option", it would be "catastrophic", the cross-party committee concluded.

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. The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee appears yet to be convinced about HMRC's state of readiness for the introduction of the new Customs Declarations System (CDS) in early 2019, and has recommended additional investment in the current customs IT system (CHIEF) to provide the United Kingdom with a viable back-up option should there be problems with CDS just as we are about to leave the EU.

"Any failure in the new Customs system would most likely lead to huge disruption for businesses, with significant delays at ports and airports of entry". It says "delay is not an option".

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MPs have today warned of the "catastrophic" scenario of HMRC failing to have a back-up system in place if its Customs Declaration Service (CDS) programme is not ready in time for Brexit. HMRC also needs to do a lot more to work with the many businesses affected.

HMRC started planning to replace CHIEF in 2013-14, well before the EU Referendum following changes to EU legislation which would have been costly and hard to make on CHIEF's ageing technology.

The government said the project was on track to be delivered in January 2019.

'Much remains to be done to have an effective Customs Declaration Service in place, on time, and that traders know how to use'.

This is two months before the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union, which is expected to lead to a surge in customs declarations at the border.

A failed customs system could lead to "massive queues at Dover", according to PAC report. "This compares to over 6,000 trusted traders in Germany".

PAC noted that HMRC "is now managing an unsustainable amount of change" which could put the delivery of CDS at risk.

It also said the government should aim to increase the number of "trusted traders" who are allowed to use simplified arrangements, which is now just 604 - a 10th of the number with such status in Germany.

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