Third of firms not ready for post-Brexit customs

A third of British businesses are unprepared for customs procedure changes after Brexit, according to a survey.

The research, led by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and the Port of Dover, surveyed more than 835 export or import businesses across the country. It found that delays at British or European ports would lead to considerable business disruption, particularly for those relying on a “just-in-time model”.

While nearly 29% of companies think administration, costs or operations will be affected by Brexit, one in three businesses still have no plans to address new customs procedures.

The Port of Dover is Europe’s busiest international ferry port, handling up to £122bn in goods and 2.6m freight vehicles. In addition, around a third of the UK’s trade in goods crosses the English channel through the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel. 

The massive volume and speed of trade between the UK and Europe shows how vital is that government and business put in place a delivery timetable for infrastructure investment and systems, said the BCC. 

While there is no clear vision for the end state relationship with Europe, firms should reflect on how different scenarios could impact their activities and elaborate solutions accordingly. 

“There is no substitutable capacity elsewhere that can handle the type and volume of goods that Dover does,” said Richard Christian, head of policy and communications at the Port of Dover. “For the sake of UK plc, it is vital that fluidity at Dover and throughout the supply chain is maintained.”

Although 67% of respondents said their business is unlikely to move operations to a different UK port in the next three years, 30% admitted infrastructure doesn’t meet their business needs.

“Firms need to know what checks and declarations they will have to go through on trade with the EU – and need to start planning for the changes ahead,” said BCC director general Adam Marshall. “Leave it too late, and firms could face even greater disruption or cost when the time comes for changes to border arrangements to be implemented.”

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