Government invests in no-deal Brexit customs support

The Treasury and HMRC are to plough £8m into a package of measures to support the customs intermediaries sector in preparing for potential capacity challenges with staff training and automation in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit next year

The one-off investment is intended to support the intermediaries sector to expand ahead of March 2019, with the £8m going towards funding broker training and increased automation to cope with increased customs activity should here be no agreement on the new trading regime.

HMRC and the Treasury plan to set up a procurement process to establish contracts with training providers for creating and delivering new training courses and expanding existing material for customs brokers to assist in a no-deal scenario.

The government says engagement with key intermediaries and training providers identified a lack of widely available and accessible training provision for customs brokers.

There will also be a grant scheme to support intermediaries and traders with the upfront costs of training their employees. The government understands that intermediaries train their staff using both internal and external training provision. This element will support customs intermediaries with some of these upfront costs to make it easier to train staff.

In addition, a separate grant scheme will be introduced to support investment in automation in the sector. The government understands that upfront cost is a key barrier to automation, particularly for smaller businesses. This scheme will seek to improve the productivity of smaller intermediaries that rely on manual data input to complete customs declarations by supporting them with the set-up costs of IT solutions.

The government says it expects the procurement process for establishing contracts with training providers to start in coming weeks, with the grant schemes to support upfront costs of training or increased automation expected to be available in late autumn.

Mel Stride, financial secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘HM Treasury and HMRC have been engaging extensively with the customs intermediaries sector on EU exit, including customs brokers, freight forwarders and fast parcel operators.

‘We have listened to their concerns about the extra demand for customs broker services in the unlikely event that the UK leaves the EU without a deal in March 2019.

‘That is why we plan to invest £8m for customs training and automation to support the sector to expand to help meet the potential increase in demand for this scenario.’

Intermediaries are advised that further details will be published on in due course. There is no need to contact HMRC at this stage.

Report by Pat Sweet

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