Freight body welcomes improved Brexit customs simplifications

BIFA says HMRC decision to extend date and scope of Transitional Simplified Procedures to all ports and intermediaries is good for forwarders and their customers

Will Waters | Monday, 25 March 2019

Freight representatives today welcomed improvements announced last Friday to planned UK government measures to support businesses with new customs requirements in the event that the UK leaves the EU without an EU withdrawal deal. 

Under the new provisions, the UK customs authority HMRC is extending arrangements announced in February for traders to use Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP) to now include making TSP available at all UK ports if the UK leaves the EU without a deal; to include an extension of the date when the first supplementary customs declarations must be submitted, and any import duties must be paid, to 4 October 2019, with subsequent declarations submitted monthly; and to allow intermediaries to operate TSP on behalf of their clients.

Following “discussions with stakeholders from across the ports industry”, HMRC said. “TSP will now be available for any port or airport where goods are being brought in to the UK from the EU. This was originally available for priority roll-on, roll-off  (ro-ro) locations like Dover or the Channel Tunnel.”

Commenting on the announcement by HMRC, Robert Keen, director general of the British International Freight Association, said: “Having criticised HMRC when it originally published its Transitional Simplified Procedures in February, we now welcome the news that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the date when the first supplementary customs declarations must be submitted, and any import duties must be paid, has been extended to 4 October. “We also welcome the news that TSP will be available for any port or airport where goods are being brought into the UK from the EU, not just ro-ro ports.

“But most importantly, we are pleased that HMRC has agreed to allow freight forwarders to operate TSP on behalf of their clients.”

Following the original announcement about TSP in February, BIFA, among others, lobbied hard with HMRC. The trade association that represents the UK freight forwarding sector told HMRC that it understood some of the easements contained in the TSP may make it easier for new applicants to obtain these authorisations, but it also explained that there did not appear to be equivalent liberalisation of the regimes for existing holders, such as freight forwarders, despite the fact that they are the businesses that are most likely to be fully prepared to operate TSP.

“The extension addresses the fact that the original documentation was skewed in favour of new applicants for authorisations and actually discriminated against existing holders, particularly relating to special procedures,” BIFA said.

“BIFA understands that HMRC’s original aim of publishing the Transitional Simplified Procedures in the event of a non-deal Brexit was to make importing easier by simplifying the declarations at the border and postponing the payment of import duties that would otherwise be due. The extension announced last Friday provides more time to make the necessary preparations, fully test the systems, establish the communication links between the parties involved in the processes, and make sure that everyone concerned is aware of their responsibilities.”

Keen concluded: “This is a very significant easement of policy and one for which BIFA, amongst others, lobbied hard to ensure all modes were treated equally. It should be noted that much confusion and effort could have been saved if Government had consulted with the trade in the first place.”

“By allowing freight forwarders to operate TSP, the extension recognises the critical role that the freight forwarder plays as an intermediary in the UK’s supply chain.”

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