James Stewart, Head of Brexit at KPMG, says the National Audit Office report on post-Brexit border readiness, published this week,"makes for grim reading" and is a call to arms for any businesses reliant on products coming through UK borders.
The NAO's report, The UK border: preparedness for EU exit, pulls no punches, despite its diplomatic language.
It concludes, "If there is no withdrawal agreement, the government has recognised that the border will be 'less than optimal'. We agree with this assessment, and it may take some time for a fully functioning border to be put in place. Individuals and businesses will feel the impact of a sub-optimal border to varying degrees."
James Stewart comments, "With an estimated £423bn of trade crossing UK borders every year, a no-deal Brexit could prove incredibly costly for UK businesses in terms of time and money. There are currently around 15,000 classifications of goods subject to 135 different duty rates. Classification is only one of around 30 pieces of data from various sources needed, usually in real time at the border. That's a huge amount of paperwork to be done by the estimated quarter of a million traders who have never needed to make a customs declaration before.
"It is anticipated that mitigations will be found for essential, time sensitive and regulated goods like Medicines and food crossing the UK border, but all businesses dealing in non-essential goods need to accelerate planning for a disorderly no deal scenario in March. In particular they should start preparing for the needs of customs declarations, and making sure their own suppliers are Brexit ready.
"For our armies of importers and exporters the NAO report today just highlights that the cost of a no-deal Brexit for businesses will be painful and could be significant."