Home Brexit Concerns remain as the UK prepares for new arrangements from 1 January

Concerns remain as the UK prepares for new arrangements from 1 January

by LLB Editor
21st Dec 20 11:42 am

A cross-party report, agreed unanimously by the Committee on the Future Relationship with the European Union and assessing UK preparedness for the end of the transition period, warns of a potentially challenging start to 2021 as businesses, traders and citizens adjust to life outside the Single Market and Customs Union.

The report’s key findings include:

Given the overall state of preparedness, the Government must have robust contingency plans ready for 1 January

The report acknowledges the complex work Government has done in developing the Border Operating Model. However, key decisions have been taken very late – including the announcement of the outcome of bids to the Port Infrastructure Fund and the location of inland facilities to serve the ports of Holyhead and Cairnryan. This has affected overall readiness as 1 January approaches, and makes it even more critical that the Government has robust contingency plans in place to deal with any disruption from 1 January.

The report notes that whilst the Government appears to be on track to make the necessary changes to its own IT systems by 1 January, such as the HMRC’s Customs Declaration Service, they are being rolled out with very little time remaining.

Not all businesses and traders will be able to update their own systems that integrate with the HMRC IT systems, nor will they be fully trained on the new software at ports and in countries they are exporting to or importing from. This training is vital if new arrangements are to function smoothly, and late delivery makes this harder. There are also concerns that the systems have not been fully tested. The Government should therefore have a plan to swiftly address any problems that arise.

The Committee welcomes the European Commission’s no-deal contingency measures for road freight and road passenger transport, published on 10 December, and recommends that the Government ensures they can be enacted, if required, by reciprocating in full.

The report says that the Government decision to phase in controls on goods arriving from the EU over the first six months of 2021 was the right one. But it warns that July is not far off and urges that all necessary systems and infrastructure are put in place, and businesses made aware of what changes they need to make, as soon as possible. The report also calls on the EU to reciprocate the UK’s decision to phase in controls.

As well as IT systems and physical infrastructure, new trading arrangements will require trained customs agents if they are to run smoothly. Businesses and traders will be reliant on these intermediaries for assistance with paperwork; and ensuring they comply with new requirements, for example on plant and animal health, and food and feed safety. If the right people are not in the right place at the right time, businesses and traders will face an uphill task. The Government must therefore be ready to address any personnel shortages.

The report welcomes the Government’s efforts to engage with businesses about the changes that are coming, but warns that with so little time remaining, continuing uncertainty about the future arrangements, unclear guidance and the additional complexities created by Covid-19 restrictions, businesses have been constrained in their preparations.

 

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