UK Customs Foto 137065559 © Ben Gingell

UK freight executives are pleading with European exporters to the country to be prepared for full customs declarations at the beginning of next year.

David Wells, CEO of Logistics UK, told delegates at yesterday’s Multimodal conference in Birmingham he had been “pleading” with members to get their European suppliers prepared for 1 January, when UK customs authorities will need full customs declarations completed to allow shipments across the border.

Mr Wells said the way the UK government dropped border controls at the beginning of this year, when Brexit, in combination with the chaos caused by the pandemic, threatened to shut down UK-continental Europe supply chains, had bred a false sense of security.

“The government just opened the border in January 2021, and I don’t think people realise it is serious about imposing border controls in January 2022.

“A lot of people in the run-up to the end of the transition period were wondering what the Trade and Cooperation Agreement was going to do – they didn’t prepare for the end of the transition, and they aren’t doing so now.

“And in this case, we are talking about European operators and suppliers to the UK – around 85% of the traffic on the Dover straits is EU-operated, and I spoke to one very large UK retailer recently that moves 70 trucks of salads from Spain every day, and it hasn’t even talked to its suppliers about this,” he said.

Frank Dunsmuir, head of customs and international trade at Fujitsu, said: “Anecdotally, it would appear that the sector is not ready for the January 2022 deadline – the goods vehicle movement service (GVMS) system should have thousands of companies registered on it, but currently it numbers hundreds, and it would appear that partners in the EU are confused about it.

“I do think we need to do this in a phased implementation,” he added.

And shippers hoping the UK government would again drop the proposed regulations are likely to be disappointed, said Margaret Whitby, head of border industry engagement at the UK border and protocol delivery group, part of the Cabinet Office.

“The first of January will see the implementation of import controls – there are no plans to delay this; customs declarations will be due on that date,” she told delegates.

“At the moment we are very focused on trade readiness, and one of the key messages is please talk to your supply chain and be very clear that everyone knows what they are doing,” she added.

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