• Customs

    Mid Devon Advertiser
    22 September 2017

    One of my key responsibilities as Financial Secretary to the Treasury is HMRC, which covers both the collection of taxes but also Customs and Excise. So it has fallen to me to take the forthcoming Customs Bill through Parliament. The bill will set out the framework legislation that ensures that we are ready for our new customs arrangements when we exit the EU. The preference must be for a transition period during which we can make sure that we are ready for wherever the negotiation on customs lands – it is not clear currently whether we will end up closely tied into the EU customs arrangements with a relatively easy flow for goods between ourselves and the remaining EU member states or whether we will have an exit with considerable friction surrounding our imports and exports. It is vital that we get this part of our negotiations right so that exports and imports continue to flow relatively unrestrained. Many manufacturers work with ‘just in time’ delivery models in which components, for example, are brought in just as they are needed within the production process – delays for fresh food produce would also be a major issue. I am a great believer in the importance of getting out in the field and meeting with those on the front line, so last week I visited the Port of Dover. This is a so-called roll on roll off or ‘Ro Ro’ port with 2.1 million lorries landing per year along with 16 million passengers. 17% of our imports come through this one port and any delays to the movement of traffic in and out would quickly cause massive backups on the surrounding motorway system with the accompanying delays and costs. Watching the continuous whir of trucks swirling about the port was quite an experience and it is easy to imagine how quickly things could get tricky if there were delays. There are three aspects that matter to our future customs border  – the speed with which we can take goods through, the generation of duties and of course our ability to ensure our security. Security is likely to be pretty much the same post Brexit. One assumes that others will still wish to share intelligence information on those dealing in drugs, firearms or terrorism. But there may be a key trade- off between speed of entry to the UK vs the effective collection of duties. These duties will be lost if , due to the need to keep trade moving, we fail to intercept those who cheat the system. But then that might be a small price to pay for saving parts of our economy from seizing up. It will be for others to prosecute the negotiation and land the right deal for us all. My part will be to have the legislation done – through the Commons in tact - ready to ensure that whatever deal is done we are prepared to put it into effect without delay – I am looking forward to the challenge.