“Shortages of food and medicines? Nonsense!” says logistics expert

We give readers the view from an importer/exporter who handles freight for a living

    

Jon Woods, Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport

Want the truth about freight and borders? Ask a man who knows

Readers have been hearing the usual scare stories about goods not getting across the border in the event of a clean break Brexit on 31 October – Project Fear Mk II. Brexit Facts4EU.Org thought readers would like to hear from a man with 35 years of experience in import/export, and who runs logistics operations right now.

“A customs border and shortages of food, medicines and other essentials?”
“This is complete nonsense”

By Jon Woods FCILT, Director of two logistics companies, import/export specialist

In the event of a customs border being re-established as a result of Brexit it is claimed that this will lead to shortages of food, medicines and other essentials. This is complete nonsense.

These shortages will allegedly be created because of delays to freight caused by necessary checks by the UK Border Force. Yes, all goods entering and leaving the UK would become subject to customs controls, as they are at present. The problem is that those engaged in “Project Fear” have no clue as to how the border operates.

How it works

Usually entries are made via an intermediary or agent using the customs control system (CHIEF) and the system generates clearances or holds within minutes of submission.

Goods from outside the EU are already subject to these controls and processes and in most cases, clearances are granted upon arrival of the vessel at the UK port in the case of Imports, or upon delivery to the terminal for exports.

As the UK border exists on the EU side of the Channel it is reasonable to conclude that whilst the vehicles will check in uncleared, they can be loaded onto ferries and trains and the vast majority will have been cleared before disembarkation.

The EU border is on the English side and therefore the same arrangements would be able to operate for UK exports. Goods falling outside of these automatic procedures include excise goods (alcohol, tobacco etc), as well as those goods that require specific licensing (pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, etc).

The arrangements are already in place

Arrangements already exist for these goods whether they come from inside or outside the EU and those arrangements will continue with or without Brexit.

Regulations currently in operation for goods arriving from outside the EU require advance manifesting procedures that allow for customs targeting, entries to be submitted ahead of arrival and documents to be pre lodged for checking.

Existing mechanisms for collection of taxes due on goods mean that companies can set up Simplified Import VAT Accounts (“SIVA”) and Duty Deferment Agreements.

Border examinations are normal

Usually entries are made via an intermediary or agent using the customs control system (CHIEF) and the system generates clearances or holds within minutes of submission.

Goods from outside the EU are already subject to these controls and processes and in most cases, clearances are granted upon arrival of the vessel at the UK port in the case of Imports, or upon delivery to the terminal for exports.

One fact that is undeniable is that a border will mean more entry submissions will need to be made and some goods will be subject to examination. That said, examinations already take place on goods coming to the UK from the EU as part of the necessary controls to stop illegal migration and disrupt the smuggling of narcotics and tobacco.

UK Border Force already has scanners and other sophisticated techniques for maintaining our borders and operate intelligence based enforcement. The UK Government has already begun recruiting and training more Border Officers. HMRC announced in November 2018 an investment in Customs Agents and Intermediaries to ensure that greater automation and productivity surrounding completing customs declarations.

Preparations under way and funding already awarded

Customs intermediaries and traders completing customs declarations have been awarded funding to upgrade software and hardware and to provide enhanced training in the submission of entries.

The government has engaged extensively with industry bodies and key providers of customs broker services – including freight forwarders, fast parcel operators and independent customs brokers – to better understand the challenges they face in supporting existing and new clients.

Based on this useful engagement, HM Treasury and HMRC announced a one-off investment of £8 million to support broker training. This includes £3m that HMRC is investing to increase training provision in this area.

These grants have been awarded and the increase in capacity is being established and should be complete well before 31 October 2019. This increase in capability and capacity means that UK borders will remain open for business.

So unless the EU27 decide to close their borders to punish the UK for leaving, disruption should be minimal.

- Jon Woods FCILT, logistics expert and PPC for the Brexit Party in the Colchester constituency

About Jon Woods

Mr Woods is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport. He has been involved in logistics - freight, shipping and transport – for over 30 years. He is based in the port of Felixstowe and runs two logistics companies, with clients involving supermarket chains, retailers, and other major companies who need to import and export products.

When you talk to Mr Woods it’s obvious he knows his stuff. He breathes imports and exports. In fact he gave us far more information than we could possibly fit into one article. This is a man who seems to know his onions when it comes to cross-border trade – be they French onions or from anywhere else.

In our Editor's interview with Mr Woods he described his own companies' preparation for Brexit:-

“Two of my companies have applied for and been granted funding which will enable us to provide secure data transmission in more locations and for our staff to work remotely. This now ensures that submission to HMRC can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year.

“We now have ability to submit entries in all major ports. The installation of the new technology will be complete by the end of September 2019.”

Observations

Our readers like to know real-world facts. The above is the testimony of someone who actually works in the field of imports and exports, and knows the detail.

He is not saying that there will not be some challenges, but he is saying that the stories being put about by the usual Project Fear merchants are from people who do not have 30+ years of experience in the field, as he has. Not only that, but he has been dealing with HMRC and Border Force to ensure that his businesses are ready to meet the challenges.

The experts fielded by the Remain campaign in 2016 and afterwards proved to be wildly inaccurate in their claims. We prefer experts who actually rely on their expertise to make a living.

Note: Whilst French, Belgian and Dutch ports have all said they are ready for a clean break Brexit, we expect the French government in particular to make life difficult. Should this happen it will be a political decision and will be judged accordingly.

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[ Sources: Jon Woods FCILT, Brexit Party PPC for Colchester ] Politicians and journalists can contact us for details, as ever.

Brexit Facts4EU.Org, 12 Sep 2019

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