British traders preparing for the end of the Brexit transition have been warned to secure brokerage capacity “before it’s too late” by a former customs official and trade expert.
Speaking on a UK Customs Academy webinar yesterday (27 May), a director of customs consultancy at KGH Customs Services said border controls for goods moving between the UK and EU “are a certainty” from the start of next year.
Steve Cock said there will be “limited brokerage capacity” to support traders who have not before been required to complete customs declarations to move goods in and out of the EU.
During the webinar, 42.8% of attendees said in a straw poll that they were ‘quite prepared’ for Brexit with a further 10.7% saying they were ‘very prepared’.
Nearly half (46.5%) were either ‘not very prepared’, ‘not at all prepared’, or ‘not sure’.
Cock says it is a “certainty” that, from the start of next year, businesses exporting to Europe will need to complete customs declarations.
The Brexit transition period is due to end on 31 December 2020 with the UK government indicating it does not want an extension.
As of August 2019, there were approximately 240,000 exporting businesses trading only with the EU and who will be completing customs declarations for the first time from the start of next year.
Cock said businesses can complete declarations themselves but will require a lot of information and knowledge to do so.
He also said there are software providers who can support the process, but most businesses “secure brokerage capacity” – a customs broker or import-export agent who acts on their behalf.
However, with brokers currently trying to enhance capacity just to meet added demand from existing client-bases, Cock doubts there will be enough capacity to deal with further demand from those “not currently in the system.”
Cock said capacity issues could become a “storm” in the media.
“Please bear in mind there is limited capacity in the system,” he said. “The storm that will probably break out in the media once we get past the end of June and it becomes clear we are leaving the EU is the lack of brokerage capacity.
“If you leave it to leave too late, past the end of July, and you don’t have a signed agreement with a broker, you may struggle to find one,” he added.
About the UK Customs Academy
The UK Customs Academy was set up by the IOE&IT and KGH at the request of HMRC to enhance the UK’s brokerage industry and train businesses and individuals in key customs-related skills such as completing declarations.
Several businesses have been taking training courses provided by the Academy as part of their Brexit preparations.
The courses are fundable by government grants which fund businesses undertaking training to prepare for Brexit by learning how to complete declarations.