The Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) has repeated its call for government to extend its grant scheme for customs training, following reports that under 1000 firms have received funding so far.
The BBC reports 878 firms have received a total of £17.5m from the scheme as of Friday, 17 April.
Minsters set aside £34m to provide training support for between 150,000 and 250,000 companies who currently trade with the European Union.
These businesses will need to complete customs declarations when exporting to or importing from the EU, after the transition period ends on 31 December 2020.
Marco Forgione, director general of the Institute of Export & International Trade, told today’s Daily Update (20 April):
“The Institute of Export & International Trade, as the UK’s premier international trade training body, is continuing to support businesses preparing for Brexit through our HMRC- and Department for International Trade-supported Customs Academy and Open to Export schemes.
“To meet the shortfall of 50,000 customs professionals, we have asked the government to extend the £16m grant budget beyond its scheduled end in January 2021.
“The government must now make the grants available for individuals to apply. This will help, especially those who are currently furloughed."
For many businesses, customs declarations will be handled by customs intermediaries – companies who handle customs-related paperwork on behalf of other businesses.
Just under half (403) of the 878 firms to have received funding are customs intermediaries.
The Road Haulage Association earlier this year said the UK would need a further 50,000 customs agents to deal with the influx of customs declarations once the UK leaves the EU customs territory. This estimate was endorsed by cabinet minister Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
The most recent round of funding financed the creation of 500 new posts, according to HMRC. The BBC also reported the grant scheme supported attendance at 3,593 training courses for customs staff.
The UK Customs Academy, established by the IOE&IT and KGH Customs Services at the request of HMRC, has enrolled over 880 students on its qualifications so far.
The government has so far said it will not seek an extension to the Brexit transition period at the end of this year.