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A particular cause for concern is the border management software, with many believing that will not be ready for adequate testing and staff training. In a recently leaked memo from the Cabinet Office’s Border and Protocol Delivery Group these suspicions were confirmed, with a statement revealing that the required IT systems essential for border operations were still under development.
While promising developments are being made on some of the other border management systems – the main worry for the industry is the lack of progress made on the “Smart Freight” system, intended for use by every company involved in exporting goods to the EU. This is one of eight IT systems which hauliers will need to use to move goods to and from Europe after 31 December 2020: including four UK systems, and up to four other EU country IT systems, depending on their route and goods to be transported.
The Government’s assertion that the software will be ready for 1 January 2021 fails to consider the time it will take for transport companies, their customers, subcontractors and customs intermediaries to adjust to the new digitised process. Sarah Laouadi, European Policy Manager at Logistics UK explains:
“we are concerned that mass user testing of the software will not be possible until October – or maybe even November: this is far too late for the thousands of companies and tens of thousands of people who build our complex supply chains to redesign their own processes and contractual relations before the Transition Period ends. This timeline brings Smart Freight onstream at the height of the Christmas peak – traditionally the busiest time of year for the logistics industry – the worst possible time for our members to test and train staff in new working practices.”
“Even if the software is ready by the end of the year, the government’s plans ignore the users’ perspective – our members will need time to learn the new system, adopt it and help to iron out any potential issues in the system. This will leave logistics businesses carrying the can for the government’s failure to plan in a timely fashion – something we have been warning about for some time now.”
While logistics operators are keen to do their part to ensure that trade can continue to move freely across the UK’s borders – they duly expect more from the government. It has been suggested that companies are provided with the means to remedy the border readiness issues Smart Freight is intended to flag. Businesses have also urged the Government to adopt a streamlined approach to border management with fewer individual systems.
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