Submitted by Jack on Thu, 02/11/2017 - 08:55
The Freight Transport Association has played down the prospect of prolonged customs gridlock as a result of the UK and its main EU trade partners not having enough officers in place to cope with the projected sharp rise in border controls in the event of a 'hard' Brexit.
A recent report in the Financial Times said that both Britain and the EU27 were “dependent on the other side having functioning customs procedures to avoid severe delays at ports”.
The UK is estimated to need up to 5,000 extra staff to manage a fivefold increase in customs declarations.
The report highlighted the time taken to train inspectors - as long as three years in Germany and two years in France - and the reluctance to start boosting numbers amid uncertainty over the final shape of Brexit, meaning it was already too late for some member states to bring enough staff on stream by March 2019.
Last week the FTA produced a document setting out ten ways in which customs can be managed more cleverly, James Hookham FTA Deputy Chief Executive noted.
“It's a selection of techniques we're encouraging customs to work on and which we know customs are working on, as well as some of the things that were hinted at in the customs white paper published a few weeks ago.
“In fact, it's nothing radically new because they're used to a greater or lesser extent on third country trade at the moment at ports such as Felixstowe and Southampton. But they would need to be adapted, quite dramatically in some cases, for use on the ro-ro ferry services where obviously crossing times and the notion of arrival times are much, much more reduced.
“You don't have the luxury of a 6-week voyage half way round the world with notice of what's coming as you do with container shipping, for example. You would almost have to do this in real time.”
Hookham added: “The big, big opportunity here is in the introduction of a 'trusted trader' scheme, or an adaptation of the accredited operator scheme, rather than simply amass thousands and thousands of new customs officials at the border and create merry mayhem down in Dover. You may end up needing the same sort of numbers of people, but in different roles, more intelligence-led roles and also in the deployment of this kind of 'intelligence' technology.”
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