Written by : Ashley Cowburn
Failure to complete the introduction of a new customs system by Brexit in 2019 would be “catastrophic”, with the risk of huge disruption for businesses, massive queues at Dover and food being left to rot in trucks at the border, a parliamentary report has warned.
The stark warning from Westminster’s public accounts committee said the number of customs declarations which HM Revenue and Customs must process each year could increase almost five-fold – from 55m to 225m – after leaving the bloc.
Brexit Secretary David Davis has repeatedly boasted that the new hi-tech system – the Customs Declaration System (CDS) – will be in place by January 2019.
But MPs on the committee warn that if the new infrastructure is not ready in time and there is no viable fall-back option, it could lead to a “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”.
They added: “This is a programme of national importance that could have a huge repetitional impact for the UK if it is not delivered successfully.”
Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee, said: “Failure to have a viable customs system in place before the UK’s planned exit from the EU would wreak havoc for UK business, trade and our international reputation. Confidence would collapse amid the potentially catastrophic effects.”