Customs? Of course not.. but Checks are another matter. Is this what “frictionless” means?

The Guardian’s Lisa O’Caroll  has been leaked a “ sensitive”  HMRC paper  revealing that  “firms in Great Britain will be obliged to complete three rounds of customs, security and transit forms on all goods. The electronic documents will need to be completed whether there is a Brexit trade deal or not and will apply to all suppliers.

Praising the Guardian for its revelations, the Alliance MP Stephen Farry tweets:

 UKG should be providing such info directly. This document only addresses some of the issues. Businesses and others need full answers urgently. PM shamefully failed to address this at PMQs yesterday.

Stephen Farry (North Down) (Alliance)

“Exactly six months from today, the Northern Ireland protocol will sadly come into operation. The Government have already recognised that it will involve checks and infrastructure with regard to regulation, which the Prime Minister knows is different from customs. The business community is desperately seeking answers as to how the processes will work in detail. Will he commit to providing that clarity before the end of the summer?

The Prime Minister

It is very clear from the existing text of the protocol that Northern Ireland is, and remains, a part of the customs territory of the United Kingdom. There should be unfettered access between all parts of the United Kingdom, and that is what we are going to ensure.”

The document declares that “to achieve customs control, we need to ensure that all goods are presented and declared to customs.”

Under a new “Goods Vehicle Movement Service” (GVMS) system, hauliers or the owners of the freight will be obliged to pre-lodge three types of electronic paperwork before getting on a ferry from British ports such as Liverpool or Cairnryan in Scotland to Northern Ireland.

The first paperwork applying to suppliers is an import declaration form setting out the customs code or codes for all the goods being transported to Northern Ireland.

Second, the supplier will have to complete a safety and security declaration, paperwork that is currently waived on all goods being sold within the EU’s single market.

Suppliers will then have to provide their truckers with a transit accompanying document (TAD) which must remain with the vehicle at all times so the EU can be guaranteed that the load that departs Great Britain is the same as the one arrives…

HMRC is planning to streamline the system so that the three elements can be collated and pre-lodged with the authorities, who will then generate a “goods movement reference” number or GMR for the haulier to present to the ferry operator.

This will demonstrate that the cargo is being processed by customs and give port authorities information on how to treat arrivals.

Some trucks will be given the green light to their destination, others may have to be processed for tariffs if they are making an onward journey to the Republic of Ireland and those carrying food, drink and animal products will be subjected to health and diseases checks.

Business leaders in Northern Ireland have been pleading with the government for this detail since last October, when the special arrangements for Northern Ireland were agreed between the UK and the EU.

But because the prime minister subsequently insisted there would be no checks it became politically challenging to detail the new procedures until last month, when Michael Gove confirmed there would be checks after all.

Sources say HMRC has told business representatives they plan to trial the new system in November, which they feel is perilously close to January’s full implementation deadline.

The procedures will not apply on goods going from Northern Ireland to GB.

HMRC said it would “ensure” the new processes would be “light touch via electronic submission” and would “impose the minimum possible burden” on traders.

A government spokesman said: “Our approach, welcomed by businesses, ensures that Northern Ireland will benefit from unfettered access to the whole UK market and that there will be no tariffs for internal UK trade in any circumstances”.