Confidence in new border system to deal with fivefold increase in custom checks after Brexit has “collapsed”

Customs checks at UK ports will increase fivefold after Brexit, the Treasury select committee has found.

Despite the expected rise, the committee said that confidence in new border arrangements to deal with the increase have “collapsed”.

In a statement to the Treasury select committee Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HRMC) said it estimates that custom declarations at Dover and other ports could rocket from 60m a year to 300m once Britain exits the EU.

HMRC also said it was no longer sure a new customs system for lorries entering and leaving UK ports could be delivered on time and have rated the project in the “major risk” category for progress.

Committee chairman, Andrew Tyrie, said that confidence “in a project HMRC describes as ‘business critical’ has collapsed” and called for a “high degree” of parliamentary scrutiny on the matter.

He said: “Customs is at the heart of the Brexit debate. It is part of the essential plumbing for international trade, and ensuring it continues to function smoothly post Brexit has to be a priority for the government.”

At the beginning of the year, freight industry bosses warned that the introduction of border checks at Dover could cause huge 30 mile tailbacks in Kent because of lorries waiting to cross the channel.

They said that Dover does not have the facilities in place to provide checks on some of the 2.6m lorries that travel through the port each year.

In a letter to the Treasury select committee, HMRC said 96 percent of UK customs declarations are processed electronically within 20 seconds. Once the UK leaves the EU “there could be a fivefold increase in customs declarations” that are more complicated to deal with than is the present case, HMRC said.

HRMC’s submission states that more than 20 agencies work at the border and that new IT systems are needed for a range of purposes including trader registers, tobacco and alcohol storage and VAT records.

EU drivers traveling to the UK will also need to be checked for work permits once freedom of movement between the EU and the UK is ended.

Because the outcome of the negotiations is not known, HMRC has no clear plan on what it needs to prepare for – a situation that industries across the UK have also found themselves in.