New customs system might not be ready in time for Brexit, says NAO

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Britain’s planned new customs system might not be ready in time for Brexit, according to a report by the government’s spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO)

HM Revenue and Customs has been developing a new system for those needing to declare customs payments, to replace the existing system for collecting some £34 billion in annual duty.

However, the NAO has warned there is a “significant amount of work” to be done, and that it might not be complete by March 2019 when the UK plans to leave the EU.

Responding to the report,Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) told East Midlands Business Link:  “It’s extremely concerning that the UK’s new customs system may not be ready in time for Brexit, potentially resulting in massive delays to trade and leaving thousands of businesses in the lurch.

“If the UK is to have a new customs arrangement in place by March 2019, this will result in a huge increase in the number of customs declarations at the border. Small businesses will be the most vulnerable to additional bureaucracy and delays if the new Customs Declaration Service is not fit for purpose or properly understood.

“We fully support the NAO’s recommendations that HMRC must swiftly identify the distinct needs of small businesses and that there must be a ‘Plan B’ if the new system is not ready to go live on time.”