Transport boss calls government's handling of Brexit border proceedings a 'complete shambles'

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Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove appearing on the BBC1 current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show - Credit: PA

A transport boss has called the government's handling of Brexit border proceedings a "complete shambles".

The chief executive of the Road Haulage Association (RHA) Richard Burnett said the software needed to facilitate the transport of goods to and from the EU was not ready, Sky News has reported.

In a letter seen by the outlet, Burnett warned Michael Gove that delays in sharing the new IT software with the industry will leave many hauliers unprepared for the end of the transition period in 35 days' time.

The warning comes 24 hours after a trial of Brexit border checks led to a five-mile-long queue in Kent.

Burnett's letter was sent ahead of a meeting scheduled between business groups and the minister on Tuesday, to which Gove sent junior minister Lord Agnew in his place.

Burnett described the proceedings as a "complete shambles" and said he "walked away with no questions being answered again".

The RHA is concerned the government's Goods Vehicle Management System (GVMs) - intended to allow lorry drivers to submit customs declarations for goods entering the EU from January 1 - is not ready.

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Downing Street has said the GVMS will ensure the flow of goods by allowing hauliers to submit the paperwork before they reach the border.

Currently only a very small number of hauliers have access to the trial system, which is expected to be rolled out around December 23, just eight days before businesses will be required to use it.

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In his letter, Burnett warned "there is insufficient time to prepare for a smooth transition, deal or not".

He urged the government to lobby the EU to phase in border checks, cautioning that without such an agreement there would be "significant problems with both trade and flow, something [the] UK government and business will need to deal with live, akin to operational disaster recovery".

The body also said the coronavirus and subsequent lockdowns, as well as incoming Christmas demand and stockpiling ahead of January 1, were hampering preparation efforts.

A government spokesperson told Sky News: "We have made significant preparations for the end of the transition period - including investing £705m in infrastructure, staffing and technology at the border, providing £84m in grants to boost the customs intermediaries sector, and implementing border controls in stages so traders have sufficient time to prepare.

"We are also confident that the delivery of HMRC IT systems necessary for the end of the transition period is on track.

"With fewer than 40 days to go, it's vital that businesses also take steps to prepare now for the changes and opportunities ahead.

"That's why we're intensifying our engagement with industry and running a major public information campaign so they know exactly what they need to do to hit the ground running in the new year."

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