Hauliers across the UK have been warned that unless they get their paperwork in order there could be queues of up to 7,000 lorries blocking Kent motorways in January, but the Government have still not put their IT systems in place, says Simon Sutcliffe.
It’s all very well for Michael Gove to say that unless the hauliers get their paperwork in order there will be huge delays and confusion at UK ports, but the Government have still not put the electronic systems that they promised in place.
The EU is not reciprocating in the UK Government’s initiative to offer UK importers the chance to defer full import entries and defer customs duty payments for up to six months for some goods from 1st January 2021. This means that EU border agencies will expect to see full customs entries and export declarations being presented even in the event of some free trade deal being agreed before the end of Transition.
Hauliers will be required to carry accurate and completed export declarations to allow them to both leave the UK and enter the EU from 1st January, such as export licences, the road consignment note (CMR) , any movement reference numbers (MRN) and any Carnets that maybe required. This is in addition to the documents that the driver has to carry about the vehicle such as registration, insurance and security. A lot of responsibility has now been filtered down to the haulier and driver.
The Government has instigated the Smart Freight System which makes hauliers confirm that they have completed and submitted all the necessary customs documentation and have the required movement refence numbers before they set off for the port. However, hauliers are also reliant on the exporter to ensure that it has fulfilled its obligations, and this requires a degree of integration.
What they don’t know is how the Government’s electronic system that promised to generate various vehicle and movement numbers will operate in practice. These numbers demonstrate to the border officials where in the customs clearance chain that particular load is situated. Having all the necessary documentation in place with the correct movement and load reference numbers is vital if the EU border authorities are to police the border as stringently as we believe they might.
There needs to be some joined-up thinking and information so that hauliers and exporters know exactly what procedure they have to follow and in what order. What they must do is have these systems up and running, stress-tested and fully operational well before the end of the year. Only then can the hauliers present their full paperwork and feel comfortable that they are doing the right thing and avoid queues at Dover and other ports.