A couple of weeks ago we worked with the White Lies Tour organisers to make sure that the band had the right paperwork to clear their merchandise through customs and start their 14-gig tour in Paris. Some of you may have noticed an apology from the band as they missed their first gig due to Brexit Red Tape. Despite having all the right paperwork and pre-clearing the merchandise, paying duties on stuff from China and all VAT to be sure they had done everything they could to ensure smooth running of the tour.
The Brexit Red Tape Bucket
The apology explained it was Brexit Red Tape, but is this just a convenient bucket to place another problem? When we investigated further, the paperwork was correct and cleared however, the P&O Ferries strike was causing long delays. Added to that the GVMS (Goods Vehicle Movement System) computer had crashed. Is that all Brexit related? Did leaving the EU cause these problems?
What Really Happened
Probably not, the P&O Ferries strike as that appears to be political however, it is entirely possible the GVMS is related to leaving the EU. This is a new system to support the movement of goods from EU-UK and UK-EU so definitely Brexit related. In the rush to get Brexit Done it may have been one of the details that slipped through unnoticed. The system supports the movement of goods that are now being treated as a ‘third country’ or ‘rest of world’ shipments, the main thing that everyone wanted to happen.
The Harsh Reality
The delays again should be making us ask some serious question about how ready were we for what we all wanted? The blanket excuse that it was ‘Brexit Red Tape’ is becoming divisive and a block to actually rectifying the issues businesses are facing. It is also making it hard to recover trading relationships with our nearest neighbours. Isn’t it time we stopped telling businesses and hauliers that they must take responsibility for the delays, and start investigating the government role in providing adequate resources to cover this transition? The government ploughed large sums into the Trader Support Service to help NI-GB trading, £20m approx.; more again into setting up and training customs brokers although, with no mandatory regulation on the brokering, we don’t really know exactly how many we have.
We do know that Border force stated they needed 50,000 more staff to manage the transition, but did they manage to find them and get them trained in time? According to a border force border force spokesperson on the radio last week it takes 12 months to train their officers. Where are we in the implementation plan? Should we be holding the government to account for the delays rather than placing them all into the convenient bucket of ‘Brexit Red Tape’.
Trade is a Force for Good
For those not in international trade the Red Tape that we speak of is evidence of compliance to agreed regulatory standards. That the goods are what they say they are for both the payment of duty and VAT, and that they do not pose a security threat to the country. Over the last 18 months goods have been subjected to HMRC easements made to allow faster clearance. Effectively this allows post transit/delivery declarations for goods already circulating in the country. This is not only a risk to security but also to UK businesses stability as they cannot compete against the influx of unregulated poor-quality products. Our UK manufacturers need to be supported by the tariff regime. When trying to explain world trade to new recruits it is important that we all understand how trade works, what role the WTO plays and how trade can be, and is, a force for good. It doesn’t need to be weaponised or over politicised. International Trade should be a private sector activity.