UK heading into end of transition with 'serious shortage of customs agents', leading broker claims

Mon 2 Nov 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News


The UK faces a ‘very serious shortage of customs agents’ ahead of the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, according to one of the country’s leading brokers.

George Baker, the founder of Felixstowe-based customs brokerage George Baker Shipping, told the Times today (2 November) that he is sceptical about government claims that the UK’s customs brokerage sector is ready for Brexit. 

50,000 customs agents needed

With the UK set to leave the EU Customs Union and Single Market at the end of the year, UK businesses will be faced with completing approximately 215 million additional customs declarations each year to continue trading with the EU.

According to estimates from the Road Haulage Association earlier this year, 50,000 customs agents would be needed to handle the additional administration and to support firms.

‘Serious shortage’

Baker said that with the end of the transitional period only two months away, “a very serious shortage of customs agents, brokers and intermediaries is now sadly unavoidable”. 

His warnings contradict the recent assessment of Brexit-readiness minister Lord Agnew, who recently told the Treasury committee that officials were “reasonably confident” that customs brokerages had “uprated their capacity to handle the increased volume”.

Freight association BIFA have said it is “difficult to say” whether the UK will have enough customs agents, while The Times reports that only half of the 50,000 customs staff reportedly needed for post-transition border operations are in position.