Commenting on confirmation by the UK government of new border controls and procedures from the end of the Transition Period, the trade association for UK freight forwarders questioned whether the phased transition will succeed in giving the companies that manage cross-border trade between the UK and EU enough time to make the necessary preparations to facilitate the revised arrangements.
Robert Keen, Director General of the British International Freight Association (BIFA) says that BIFA members, the freight forwarders that handle a significant proportion of that trade, will also be hoping that the transfer of the Border and Protocol Delivery Group from HMRC to the Cabinet will have the galvanising effect of ensuring the readiness of the border for the end of the transition period.
“A recent survey of our members, revealed that the majority of respondents believed that an extension to the transition period is desirable, if no trade deal is agreed by December 31st 2020, and UK trade with the EU is conducted on WTO lines.
“With that option now off the table, we hope that a trade deal between the EU and UK can be agreed before the end of the year.
“Even with a phased transition for the new border processes, and the promise of an additional £50 million investment in Customs IT infrastructure and training, we remain concerned on a number of issues, including the recruitment of staff qualified and experienced in Customs procedures, and the lack of available time to train newcomers, which is not a five-minute job.
“In effect we have a plan, but as always, the devil will be in the detail. For instance, how long will it take to build the infrastructure that the government recognises will be required?
“And it remains to be seen whether the EU will reciprocate with a similar phased transition for UK exports to the EU.”