Customs “mega project” for post-Brexit trade could take seven years to complete and cost as much as £800m, HMRC boss tells MPs

The boss of Britain’s tax authority has said the UK could need as many as 5,000 extra custom and border officials post-Brexit.

HMRC chief John Thompson said setting up a new customs system could take up to seven years and cost as much as £800m.

Thompson told MPs on the Treasury Committee that HMRC does not have the money at present to carry out the “mega project”.

He said: “We need to be transparent with you… You need to be thinking about that as a project that costs somewhere between £500m and £800m.

“It would take five to seven years to implement.”

HMRC director general of customer strategy, Jim Harra, told the committee the tax authority would have an extra 130,000 companies to process after Brexit.

He said these firms would be ones who operate within the EU single market but do not currently come into contact with UK customs.

This would mean roughly a fivefold increase in customs declarations, Harra told MPs.

He said: “If your customs declarations are multiplied fivefold, if you multiplied your resources fivefold, what would that come out at.

“It would come out at an extra three to 5,000 people.”