Simplified customs checks biased and discriminatory, forwarders claim

Simplified customs checks biased and discriminatory, forwarders claim

The Government’s recent announcement about simplified customs checks are biased in favour of new traders and discriminate against those already expert in customs matters, freight forwarders have claimed. 

HMRC recently wrote to 145,000 businesses trading with the EU about the new simplified importing procedures for customs - Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP) – in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Government said once registered for TSP, importers will be able to transport goods from the EU into the UK without having to make a full customs declaration at the border and can postpone paying any import duties.

However, the British International Freight Association (BIFA), the trade association that represents freight forwarders, said TSP should be for all involved in visible international trade movements, including freight forwarders, but the documentation seem to be “aimed solely at those traders, which have not been previously engaged in international trade, giving an overview of the procedures available to those traders”.

Robert Keen, BIFA Director General said: "Whilst some of the easements that they contain regarding simplifications and special procedures may make it easier for new applicants to obtain these authorisations, there does not appear to be equivalent liberalisation of the regimes for existing holders, such as freight forwarders.

“In many ways the documentation appears skewed in favour of new applicants for authorisations and actually discriminates against existing holders, particularly relating to special procedures.

“It appears to us that TSP allows traders without any customs expertise, and tried and tested systems, to by-pass the strict authorisation requirements which otherwise apply to freight forwarders and customs agents.

“If the above are the case this will be highly unpopular amongst freight forwarders and customs agents as they appear to be excluded from them and no-one seems willing to say why this is so. That is something on which we will be seeking clarification from HMRC.”

BIFA says that the TSP appear to confirm that if the UK leaves without a deal, the country will revert to trading with the EU on a third country basis, acceding to the CTC Convention, which may help goods move across frontiers. It notes that some BIFA member companies are already basing their post-Brexit planning on this model.

Keen adds: "If this is a true picture of the situation, we question whether the preparations are far enough advanced and whether the systems that will be needed are fully tested.”

He concludes: "It is all very well to write down these procedures, but the unanswered question is will they work when systems are largely untried, communication links between the parties involved on the processes are not established, many will be unaware of their responsibilities, and the freight forwarding companies that are at the heart of international trade movements appear to be excluded from them.

“TSP should be for all involved in visible international trade movements, including freight forwarders.”