A new report launched today tears apart the myth spouted by Remain campaigners that British ports will be clogged up when Britain leaves the customs union.
The report by Leave Means Leave, which explores Britain’s exit from the customs union, says that Britain can become a “more effective” trading power when it leaves the European Union and that efforts must be focused on utilising technology to deliver a “frictionless” or “virtual border” to enhance customs clearance.
The report, ‘Brexit and a Future UK Customs System: A Blueprint for Frictionless Trade’, authored by John Longworth, Co-Chair of Leave Means Leave and former Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, urges the Government to ensure that the relevant customs procedures are in place prior to formal exit of Britain from the EU.
Mr Longworth said that this will “ensure that trade can continue without undue obstacles”.
The report says that businesses are “far more concerned” about customs clearance procedures within the UK and at the border with other countries than about any potential future tariffs with the EU.
Addressing customs clearance in the UK, the report says that while technology would be key to ensuring vehicles will not be held up, in addition to this, “if necessary”, checks could be made at a roadside station. This would “decrease the administrative burden, both on the exporter and on customs controls, whilst recognising that there is likely to be some increase in physical inspections”. Any customs duties could be dealt with in a similar manner to VAT where return and payments are made in arrears.
Mr Longworth makes the case for an Export Processing Zone (known as a Free Trade Zone or free port) that would allow cargo to be processed and then shipped onwards outside of the UK without the need for UK customs clearance.
On customs clearance outside of the UK, the report recommends allowing Authorised Economic Operators (AEO) businesses to complete self-assessment on customs duties and other import charges themselves, which would support the virtual border concept and work to speed up the current customs declaration process. It also says that as HMRC are currently reluctant to provide fast clearance for traders that do not have AEO status, a trusted third party such as the Chambers of Commerce could oversee a new “Trusted Trader” accreditation process which would assist in relieving significant strain on businesses – particularly on SMEs.
The report also proposes a new “UK Customs Code” which would amend the Union Customs Code to simplify cross-border business for UK firms and address impacts which are detrimental to companies’ cash flow provisions.