New technology will make Brexit trade a roaring success, say campaigners
BRITISH businesses could find it easier to export and import after Brexit – if the Government starts work now on designing new systems, a new report said today.
Leave Means Leave said the analysis destroyed the “myth” pedalled by Remain supporters that leaving the European Union will inevitably mean queues at the border once Britain is out of the free trade Single Market and customs union.
Co-chairman John Longworth, former head of the British Chambers of Commerce, said his “blueprint for frictionless trade” could avoid future problems and streamline existing procedures to help British firms trade around the world.
He urged the Government to start work quickly on ensuring the right procedures are in place to ensure trade continues smoothly after Britain’s expected departure from the EU in spring 2019.
His report concluded: “The fact that the UK currently has robust and longstanding systems in place for aspects such as export documentation, as well as the opportunity to streamline customs procedures on our own terms, means that UK Government can immediately implement several procedures to facilitate our trade with the EU and the rest of the world.
“Customs clearance procedures, both within the UK and at the border with other countries, are an issue of critical importance to businesses, and one that many are far more concerned about than any potential future tariffs with the EU.
“However, the UK should not be daunted by the measure of the task ahead, as the measures outlined in this paper would go a long way towards not only addressing immediate challenges, but also facilitating more effective trade in the future.”
He believes technology will be key to averting delays by creating “virtual borders”, for example using licence plate scanning to enable electronic customs registration before trucks cross a border.
Computer programmes could help assess risks and target physical checks, which could be carried out inland at dedicated roadside stations to be more “discreet” and avoid clogging up port space.
Customs duties could, like VAT, be reported and paid in arrears.
Mr Longworth also backs Export Processing Zones – known as a free trade zones or “free ports” – near key ports and airports, where cargo can be imported, processed and shipped overseas without needing UK customs clearance.
Outside Britain, he recommends giving more businesses the authorisation to complete self-assessment reports on import duties, to speed up the declaration process.
As smaller firms in particular find it hard to secure the necessary authorisation from HM Revenue and Customs, bodies such as the Chambers of Commerce could oversee a new “trusted trader” accreditation process, he said.
He also backed rewriting the code of practice on customs to simplify cross-border transactions.
He acknowledged that changing the current system which makes trading goods with EU member states virtually the same as selling within the UK would have “significant implications” for companies.
“If not addressed properly, these could result in costly administrative burdens, both for UK businesses and on the UK Border Control infrastructure,” he wrote.
“There are a number of interlinked issues … presenting challenges but also opportunities to strengthen the UK’s capabilities as a trading nation.
“It is assumed that the UK government would work with the EU in a constructive manner in matters of international trade, to ensure both the EU and UK continue to benefit from the freest possible terms of trade with each other.
“As an absolute minimum, systems need to be in place before the moment of our formal exit from the EU, or any negotiated transition period for customs arrangements, to ensure that trade can continue without undue obstacles.