FTA has grave doubts over new Customs system's ability to handle Brexit

13 / 07 / 2017

The UK's Freight Transport Association (FTA) has expressed concerns that the country's future Customs Declaration Service (CDS) programme will not be able to process the amount of transactions anticipated post-brexit.

Responding to the publication of the National Audit Office (NAO)’s report on the progress of the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) programme, the FTA said it had grave doubts that the new system, currently in development by Customs, will be able to cope with the anticipated 255m additional Customs declarations to be made each year when the UK leaves the EU.

While most of the extra Brexit-related Customs declarations will be in connection with ro-ro operations, any failure in the system would also impact on airfreight. Also, any truck jams caused by the failure at ferry ports could impact road feeder services

“With only two months anticipated between the delivery of the CDS programme and the UK’s departure from the EU, it is imperative that all the potential problems have been ironed out in the system before implementation,” says James Hookham, FTA’s deputy chief executive.

“Without assurances that the rigorous stress tests recommended by the NAO have been undertaken, to ensure the Customs system can cope with the high volumes of traffic it will be handling, HMRC will be creating unnecessary uncertainty for British businesses, at a time stable trading conditions will be vital for our economy.

“But there is no mention how exporters and importers, their agents and their carriers will be trained in time to make this a smooth transition to Keep Britain Trading.

“It is irresponsible to suggest that a programme like CDS can be introduced overnight, and it is vital that the government and its negotiators do not leave business on a cliff edge, with no deal agreed at the UK’s point of departure from the EU."

More than 180,000 businesses are expected to use the new CDS system to facilitate UK-EU trade.

Hookham added: "Funding and resources need to be prioritised to speed up progress with the programme, alongside the development of a full scale contingency plan, to ensure that the UK’s logistics industry is not left high and dry by a failure to deliver the new Customs system on time.”

There has been past incidents of UK Customs declarations systems breaking down and causing chaos - in the late 1980s there was an airfreight meltdown when the Travicom Customs declaration system was put in place.

However, the airfreight industry has made moves to ensure it does not happen again. In June, the UK’s airfreight industry implemented a new Customs declaration fallback system.

The CCS-UK Fallback allows authorised traders to continue processing Customs export declarations in the event of any significant system outage, and receive automatic fallback clearance to ship goods without delay.