HMRC has indicated to MPs that it recognises the challenges businesses trading across the Irish Sea face with new customs procedures being introduced from 1 January.
The BBC reports that estimates of how many declarations will be made from the start of next year range from 11-30 million a year.
HMRC official Aidan Reilly told MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs committee that the tax and customs agency are “acutely aware” that many traders are going to be completely new to customs processes being introduced under the NI Protocol from 1 January 2021.
Reilly, director for customs and border design at HMRC, said his department would be “keeping customs checks to the minimum necessary to police the regime.
“We will of course want to be sympathetic to traders in the early days of the regime who are trying to do the right thing but are not clear on what exactly they need to do,” he said.
'Systems are ready’
According to the BBC, another HMRC official, Mark Denney, said the government's Trader Support Service to support affected traders will be “broadly ready”.
Denney said that the new Customs Declaration System (CDS), set to replace the current 27-year old CHIEF (Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight) system in 2021, is “live” with new functions for GB-NI trade in testing.
A second system, the Good Vehicle Movement Service, is “fully built” and in testing with a major test due on 14 December.
Food and drink traders: some on pause
It may be too late for some food suppliers though, after the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) found that four in 10 UK food firms will stop, reduce or pause supplies going from GB to NI – reports the Guardian.
Dominic Goudie, the head of international trade at the FDF said that businesses were still not sure what they needed to do in order to trade in Northern Ireland.
He said there is “a real lack of clarity and detail on what actually needs to be done to get products in Northern Ireland, and how the processes of the borders will actually work in practice”.
The Guardian has reported that Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer have warned shoppers in Northern Ireland they may not have access to a full range of products in store from January.