The British International Freight Association has voiced concerns over the government’s plans for £16 million in funding to help businesses train staff to make customs declarations, and to help businesses who support others to trade goods to invest in IT.
HM Revenue & Customs announced the funding yesterday (3 September), effectively a doubling of the £8 million of funding made available in December 2018, and encouraged businesses to apply early.
BIFA director general Robert Keen said that while the association welcomed the additional funding “we query whether it will, as the announcement states, lead to thousands of more customs experts being on hand to help businesses on and after Brexit day”.
Keen said that during meetings with both HM Treasury and HMRC, BIFA had highlighted the concerns of members regarding the capability of the customs brokerage sector to increase capacity, at a time when the sector already faces a huge shortage of staff of suitable quality.
“We emphasised that it could take up to a year to train staff to be fully conversant to prepare a range of basic customs declarations, even if there was a sufficient number of trainers to train those staff, as well as relevant courses for them to attend.”
Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman MP said: “Brexit takes place on 31 October and we urge all businesses to make the necessary preparations to be fully ready. The government has doubled the support available, so that thousands more customs experts are on hand to help businesses on and after Brexit day.”
In July BIFA criticised the government for failing to get companies to register for a new online system design to protect value added tax revenues on foreign parcels in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
By Christopher Walton