Food left to rot and massive queues at Dover expected after Brexit

A failure to finish new customs systems by the time of Brexit in March 2019 would be'catastrophic and leave food rotting in trucks at borders such as the Port of Dover, MPs claim today

Food left to rot and massive queues at Dover expected after Brexit

The tax agency said it was "in conversation" with the Treasury regarding this money.

"HMRC tells us it is merely 'in conversation" over CHIEF upgrade costs when, on behalf of business and the British public, it should be banging on the doors of the Treasury.

"HMRC must press the case to secure this funding now and ensure that, if other plans fail, customs will be fit for objective".

"HMRC is under considerable pressure to deliver the new Customs Declaration Service 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".

An announcement to that effect could reasonably be expected to come in next Wednesday's Budget.

The committee said, "Under current plans, the United Kingdom is set to leave the European single market and the customs union in March 2019".

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The department has said using its existing CHIEF system is the main contingency option if CDS isn't ready, something it is developing as a contingency option in parallel with its implementation of CDS.

Following the European Union vote it became clear that the customs system would now have to be able to handle 255 million declarations a year, five times more than the 55 million made by traders in 2015.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said the number of customs declarations which HM Revenue and Customs must process each year could increase nearly five-fold after the UK's departure from the European Union - from 55 million to 255 million.

A failed customs system could lead to huge disruption for businesses, with delays potentially causing massive queues at Dover and resulting in food being left to rot in trucks at the border, warned the Public Accounts Committee.

"There are financial as well as operational implications of not acting now".

Despite this, top officials from the tax agency have told MPs the programme is on track and well governed, but have admitted that some risks remain that could jeopardise the already tight timetable.

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HMRC boss John Thompson warned MPs last month that he would need significantly more staff if Britain was to cope properly with a collapse in negotiations with Brussels over trade deals.

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.

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".

Its report warns that "much remains to be done" to have an effective CDS system in place on time.

In its recommendations, the PAC also urged HMRC to manage the "huge uncertainty" faced by a large number of traders. Although HMRC has engaged with some larger traders and representative groups, it only plans to start wider engagement with all traders after March 2018. "This compares to over 6,000 trusted traders in Germany". However, CDS was originally created to handle 150 million declarations each year.

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