LONDON: The UK’s decision to leave the European Union obviously has far-reaching consequences. However, one of the most immediate challenges facing trade post-Brexit, is that of the customs agreement (if any) that the government strikes with the EU for any future relationship. Prime Minister Theresa May began by promising to maintain the “frictionless” transport of goods between the UK and EU after Brexit. This has recently shifted to ‘as frictionless as possible’. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, however, has said that it is impossible to leave the single market (as the British government has hinted is its intention) and build a customs union that has frictionless trade.
A new report released by economic consultants Oxera has detailed the different scenarios facing the UK, after it leaves the European Union on 29 March 2019. The different scenarios mean different degrees of economic pain for the UK, but they also highlight the unknowns for its new customs IT system. To put it simply, a new system is being built that is intended to go live just before our departure from the EU. And yet, this system is being built with little knowledge of what the new customs processes and regulations will require. Which, to put it lightly, doesn’t bode well. The Oxera report outlines how since the single market was established in January 1993, goods leaving the UK for the EU, and vice versa, have not been subject to customs checks on either side. Lorry loads of goods entering Dover from outside the EU are subject to checks that take 45 minutes on average, having been subject to the same checks on entering the EU.