Lawyers Welcome Moves To Address The Channel and Irish Sea Concerns
As the government moves to tackle the freight and trade issues ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December, lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have welcomed the change in gear, advising business and government to work together to address the outstanding issues.
Earlier this month, a consortium led by Fujitsu secured the £200m Irish Sea contract to run the Trader Support Service (TSS), which will be free to use and goes live at the end of September.
While the TSS sees the UK government effectively paying customs agents on behalf of business and removing administrative burdens, an extra £355m has been earmarked to further streamline the system for moving goods into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
Over in the English Channel, the government held talks with the Road Haulage Association (RHA) on how border checks will operate; and the forthcoming new freight management system.
Described as ‘constructive’ by the government, remaining concerns over how border checks will operate in practice and if the promised systems will be ready in time led the RHA to describe talks as ‘a washout’ amid trader concerns of being blamed for any delays.
The concerns follow reports from HM Revenue and Customs estimating business may have to fill out an additional 260m customs forms a year post Brexit and the government’s own “worst case scenario” that 7,000 truck-long queues could form in a situation where 70% of freight truckers were to be unprepared for the new border controls.
Faye Bargery, regional managing partner in the Irwin Mitchell Gatwick office, said: “With trade talks and the Internal Market Bill dominating the news, it’s easy to forget progress is being made on support for traders in respect of border control.
“The TSS has been welcomed by business in Northern Ireland and the government is clearly moving through the gears in terms of freight being ready for the end of the transition period.
“The release of the worst case scenario can be viewed as a public warning that business needs to be ready for border changes, irrespective of whether a trade deal is struck with the EU or not, as the UK is still leaving the customs union at the end of the year.”
At the end of the transition period on 31 December, Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU rules on agricultural and manufactured goods, while the rest of Great Britain will not. Given a situation where the whole of the UK leaves the customs Union but Northern Ireland will continue to enforce the EU customs code, the TSS will be a vital tool for traders navigating this process.
Over The Channel, the EU will impose controls and steps need to be taken to prepare for what will follow in the UK in respect of border checks and the likelihood of additional forms.
Expert Opinion“There is always likely to be some disruption as any new system beds in but many goods will not have to complete the process they normally would at the border until June 2021.
“Allowing six months grace for business to file any paperwork and pay any duties owed offers breathing space and while this will not solve every border problem, it does give all sides time to engage with the new normal and the reality of making the new processes work.
“If the government continues to act and business plays it part by assessing what will be required in terms of their usual freight and taking appropriate action, the obstacles ahead will seem less insurmountable.” Faye Bargery - Partner