Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Freight Forwarding and Software Groups Join HMRC in Explanations Whilst Road Haulage Body Worries

Like a Penalty Shoot Out Some in Logistics Can Hardly Bear the Nervous Wait for Brexit
Shipping News Feature
UK – Like a nation facing a penalty shoot-out, British businesses are beginning to get ever more nervous as Brexit approaches. There is a distinct concern that the government is wavering over the precise nature of the deal it will be able to extract from a Brussels administration perceived by many as doing its utmost to make life difficult. The freight forwarding and road haulage sectors both continue to comment and offer advice, but a section of the transport community is pushing forward to ensure that businesses are as ready as possible post Brexit, whatever the terms agreed.

A series of roadshows across the country organised between the British International Freight Association (BIFA), which represents UK freight interests, Agency Sector Management (ASM), which supplies software to HMRC and many forwarding agents, and representatives from HMRC itself, has seen hundreds of logistics businesses attending the sessions to stay abreast of developments and get up to speed on the new system for UK Customs declarations coming into force next month.

The new Customs Declaration Service (CDS) is set to replace the current system, HMRC’s Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF), which has been in place since 1994 and, such has been the demand, extra seminars are now being planned for the UK-wide events. The first phase of CDS is set to be implemented in August, followed by the second phase in November and it will be fully functioning by January 2019. Peter MacSwiney, Chairman, ASM, commented:

“CDS is an essential upgrade to cope with an expected increase in declarations post-Brexit, which will benefit the freight forwarding sector as it continues to modernise. The introduction of CDS will allow HMRC to replace old technology and create a modern and more flexible service that will enable the better handling of both future changes and the increasing volumes of international trade. Alignment with the Union Customs Code (UCC) will enable the trade facilitations required by UK business today.

“With Brexit taking place next year, the changes are well timed for a UK logistics sector in a stage of significant transition, it will allow us to tackle any fluctuations in declarations whilst at the same time being more compatible with today’s changing trade landscape. The remaining seminars for July are full to capacity and we are receiving positive feedback from the June dates, which reflects how the industry is seriously considering the way in which the changes will impact business processes. In view of the take up, additional events are being planned for Heathrow, Southampton, and Felixstowe in the near future.”

The seminars held so far have seen packed houses in Warrington, Pontefract, and Loughborough, with more events scheduled in the coming weeks for Grays, London, Belfast, and Glasgow. Meanwhile customs practices are very much in the mind of Road Haulage Association (RHA) Chief Executive, Richard Burnett, who said this week:

“The momentous decision to leave the EU will have an impact on the entire UK economy; and for the transport operators that make millions of journeys across the Channel each year, it’s crucial that we get a satisfactory outcome. However, there have been warnings that if additional customs checks are imposed after the UK leaves on 29 March 2019, every additional minute's worth of checks at peak times will add about 10 miles to the queues. We have had several meetings with the Transport Secretary and each time he has assured us that there is nothing to worry about.”

Mr Burnett point out that five months ago the Transport Secretary, Christopher Grayling, said publicly that warnings given about the delays were incorrect and these simply wouldn’t happen, and there would be a free flow of traffic through Dover, with no lorry checks and no restrictions on trade which could create that situation. Richard Burnett concluded:

“Mr Grayling’s comments fly in the face of those made by EU Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier who has been quoted as saying, 'frictionless trade will not be possible after Brexit', this is a worrying time, we need a definitive decision right now. Of the 194 working days left until the UK formally leaves the EU, 70 days will see Westminster empty as MPs enjoy their recess. For the thousands of UK hauliers facing a nail-biting time, indecision and placatory words are not good enough, we need formal confirmation of the future customs processes that will be in place and we need them right now.”

Photo: The Customs seminars have attracted hundreds of interested parties.