Training should be a requirement in the accreditation of customs intermediaries, the majority of traders on a webinar hosted by the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) said yesterday (28 March).
Intermediaries – including customs agents, brokers and freight forwarders – support businesses that move goods internationally by submitting customs declarations on their behalf or by assisting them with this process.
There is currently no requirement for intermediaries to have a formal accreditation or qualification in the UK.
However, as part of the customs measures which were announced in the Spring Budget earlier this month, the government has said that it is considering introducing ‘voluntary standards’ in the sector – something that was recommended in IOE&IT’s policy paper, ‘Enhanced efficiency: Building a UK border fit for the 21st century’, last year.
Government will be running a public consultation on the matter in the summer.
“Regulation of customs intermediaries is something that is needed and is the best way to tackle the varying level of services across the industry,” said Garima Srivastava, a senior customs and trade specialist at the IOE&IT.
Srivastava said that licence exams for accreditation as a customs broker already exist in other countries, including the US.
Customs Academy ‘an option’
Kevin Shakespeare, the director of strategic projects and international development at IOE&IT, and dean of the Global Customs Academy, agreed that “training is really important”.
“The customs academy is definitely an option and it’s really important to recognise the importance of training,” he said. “Not just initial training but ongoing training as well, through continuing professional development (CPD) programmes.”
The Global Customs Academy includes the UK Customs Academy (UKCA), which was set up in 2019 by IOE&IT, KGH Customs Services (a Maersk company) and the Centre for Customs & Excise Studies, at the request of HMRC, to support the intermediaries sector to prepare for changes to rules for trade between the UK and EU as a result of EU exit.
The government’s customs package contains a range of measures including simplifications to declaration submission processes, customs authorisations, guarantees and transit procedures.
Shakespeare noted that the package included a proposal to group the 42 authorisations currently on offer from government – including facilitations like AEO, transit and simplified declaration procedures – into five categories, with traders only needing to make a single application per category to benefit from all authorisations in each group.
“This will reduce the instances of traders having to send the same information multiple times for lots of different authorisations,” he said.
He added that a digital portal could be introduced on which traders can make these simplified applications. Later in the webinar, IOE&IT digital trade and customs specialist Ilona Kawka noted that these measures should interrelate with the government’s ongoing work on the Single Trade Window and Ecosystem of Trust initiatives, forming a “bigger picture” of trade digitalisation in the UK.
Shakespeare also said that proposals around simplifying declaration procedures were “exciting and innovative”.
A review of declaration processes is currently being planned for later in the year and could cover the solutions being made available through the trusted trader schemes currently being explored and developed by government.
Shakespeare said that the review of export declaration procedures in particular could lead to simplifications that will help “smaller and less experienced businesses” to trade internationally.
“IOE&IT will be consulting with our members and wider network because there is an opportunity for exciting and innovative developments on the future processes around customs declarations,” he said.