New customs paperwork issued after Brexit is poised to burden businesses with eye-watering levels of red tape and will cost £7 billion a year to process.
Under the new arrangements introduced as part of the government £705 million spending spree to develop the UK’s borders after Brexit, traders could be inundated with 215 million pieces of paperwork every year, the FT suggests.
The paper also estimated companies could face a £32.50 surcharge for processing each customs declaration.
A 230-page blueprint released by Downing Street detailing how the customs system would work showed that hauliers will have to submit a customs declaration form for exports before heading to any British port from January 1. The same will apply to lorries carrying goods into Britain from July 1.
Among other changes, companies trading in Europe will need to apply for trade registration numbers and other permits while trucks on their way to the border could be pulled over and rerouted by government officials to face checks or to ease traffic jams caused by drivers who do not have the right paperwork.
The government is also tipped to hire 50,000 customs agents, which is the same size as the Army, the FT says.
‘The publication of the border operating model really brings home the breadth of new processes that goods being transported between the U.K. and EU will be subject to,’ said Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the British Ports Association. ‘There is a large amount to do, for ports, traders and government, but work is cranking up.’
Answering to criticisms about the plan, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, who oversees the government’s new border strategy, told MPs in the Commons the new rules would ‘lay the foundations for the world’s most effective border by 2025, making our country more secure and our citizens safer.’
‘The actions that we are taking today are an important step towards readiness for the new opportunities Brexit can bring,’ he added.
‘It is time for our new start, time for us to embrace a new, global, destiny.’
Twitter users slammed the announcements. Retired lawyer Chris Wismayer said: ‘£7B is about 45% of the £350M pw we were going to save according to the bus & that figure was a lie anyway. So just this one item destroys a significant part of the supposed ‘benefit’ of leaving &, of course, it’s just a drop in the ocean of the hundreds of billions wasted .’
Labour MP Peter Kyle tweeted: ‘214 million forms, £7bn of red tape? Are you kidding me! That’s more than half the cost of full EU membership just to get lorries out of Dover!
‘@michaelgove – you seriously think this is a good deal for Britain?! #exactsamebenefits.’
University professor Richard Murphy said: ‘The cost of Brexit Customs clearances will be at least £3bn for the gov’t a year and £7bn for business. So £10bn a year, at least. £192 million a week. Write it on the side of a bus.’
The statements comes as Downing Street unleashed a new media campaign to prepare people and businesses for a no-deal Brexit, costing taxpayers £93 million.