Companies faces further chaos at Britain’s border after Brexit after a fund set up to help them process customs paperwork ran out of cash.
HMRC said almost all the money from the Customs Grant Scheme – an £84million-pound programme to train staff and set up new IT systems – has run dry, leaving businesses at the risk of continued gridlock at Britain’s borders due to a lack of trained customs staff.
“If applications cannot be fulfilled due to funding, applicants will be placed on a waiting list to have funds allocated if and when funds are returned,” HMRC said in a statement.
“Businesses may also want to look into support available through government-backed loans schemes like the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme.”
Trade between the UK and the EU faces major disruption if post-Brexit paperwork is not managed properly.
Lorry drivers with the wrong paperwork face being held up by customs officials, risking a 7,000-long queue at the border.
This comes as the Port of Dover finds itself in chaos after France closed its borders to prevent the spread of a new strain of coronavirus.
Logistics experts estimate the UK will need as many as 50,000 extra customs agents after Brexit.
An extra 400 million customs declarations are expected to be filed annually at a cost of £13billion, even if a deal is reached.
HMRC said the sector expects to see a near fourfold increase in its capacity to process customs declarations, and that Britain is “well prepared” to deal with the changes at the end of the year.
“We are very concerned that any delays that arise because we have not got the right people in the right place at the right time will make it harder for U.K. businesses to trade with our European neighbours,” a panel of U.K. lawmakers led by Hilary Benn, chair of the Future Relationship with the European Union Committee, said in a report last week.
“The government must stand ready to address any shortages in personnel.”