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Government gives update on post-Brexit customs systems

Cabinet Office’s Border and Protocol Delivery Group provides further clarity on the readiness of the UK’s post-Brexit border IT systems

The government has published a report outlining how traders will use a series of digital systems when crossing the UK border.

The report, The border with the European Union: Importing and exporting goods, has been produced by the Cabinet Office’s Border and Protocol Delivery Group (BPDG) and provides new details about several systems.

These include the Check an HGV is Ready to Cross the Border service, previously called the Smart Freight System. In September 2020, Computer Weekly reported that of the four border-focused IT systems under the government’s control, this one was the furthest from completion. 

At the time, freight business trade body Logistics UK said it had been told by the government that the system would not be ready by the January 2021 deadline, and would not be fully operational until April 2021.

Logistics UK policy director Elizabeth de Jong said at the time that it was “a crushing disappointment for the logistics sector” not to have the system ready on time.

“To find out, with only 14 weeks to go, that there will not be a ready, workable solution for those moving goods to the EU is a massive blow to UK businesses and the economy,” she said.

However, the latest update in the report said the system will now be ready by January after all.

“The final version of the service that will be in use from January 2021 onwards is on schedule to be ready for December 2020 and will be made fully available to all users on Gov.uk during December 2020,” said the report.

“For the longer term, [government] is looking at how systems required for different purposes but capturing similar information can be aligned to minimise data requests that are made on industry. This will form a key part of the HMG 2025 Strategy, which will be published in due course.”

It added that from today (12 October), “a version of the service is being made more widely available so that companies and hauliers who will use it can practise with it in advance and offer further feedback”.

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The government is also developing a dedicated digital hauler portal, which will give hauliers access to up-to-date information and resources, as well as one-to-one support.

The Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS) is also being developed. This will allow declaration references to be linked together, so the haulier only has to present one single reference. It will also link the movement of goods to declarations, which is automatically updated in HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) systems.

Despite the progress on the digital systems, the report said some ports may “still choose to operate a paper-based Office of Transit system”, which means hauliers may have to ensure they have the right paperwork with them physically as well as digitally.

De Jong said the government’s update and clarification on arrangements for the UK’s borders with the EU at the end of the Brexit transition period “is welcomed by our members, the organisations charged with moving goods and services to and from our nation’s largest trading partner”.

She added: “With less than 90 days to go until implementation, it is imperative that businesses seeking to sell their goods to companies in the EU make the most of this guidance to speed up their preparations and ensure that their paperwork is in order on 1 January 2021.  Logistics organisations need their customers to prepare if they are to maintain a smooth flow of goods to and from the EU.

“We now want to see the same clarity and detailed information for the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, so that businesses can plan and logistics operators avoid delays.”

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