Brexit has caused hauliers to become “their own customs agents” due to shortages, MSPs have been told.
Appearing before the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee at Holyrood, Martin Reid, the Scotland and Northern Ireland director for the Road Haulage Association (RHA), said his members had been forced to recruit and train administrative staff due to a lack of qualified customs officers able to help exports move swiftly.
Mr Reid told the committee: “There’s a lack of qualified customs agents, something that the Government deny.
“But we have seen that is definitely the case, so hauliers are now having to become their own customs clerks.
“They’re having to take on admin people, train them up on systems that are still in their infancy and that we’re still learning in order to deal with the additional paperwork that’s required.
“Nobody is saying that it’s an easy time for the Government but it’s not an easy time for anyone in this current environment.”
During the same committee hearing, Scottish Engineering chief executive Paul Sheerin said just 25% of respondents to a recent survey felt no impact of Brexit on their exports and these were companies who do not export at all.
Mr Sheerin said: “Unfortunately, that just reflects the companies that are manufacturing who don’t export at all.
“Which suggests that almost every exporter in the manufacturing and engineering space is suffering detriment as a result of the end of the transition period and the new processes that we have.”
Mr Sheerin added that 45% of the 100 respondents to the survey said they had suffered detriment due to the availability of logistics, while 50% said they were being hit by the increased costs of haulage.
He added: “One of the comments that we’ve got is from a company who said they’ve had a 10-fold increase in their administrative costs associated with the logistics process post-Brexit.”
Mr Reid also said that, given the changes to export systems brought on by leaving the EU, hauliers and other exporters were being forced to start again.
“Come January 1, any mistakes that were going to be made, or any system errors that were going to be made, were being made in real time which has a knock-on effect throughout the supply chain,” he told the committee.
“Effectively, we had a supply chain from top to bottom that was having to re-learn how to do the basics in moving goods.
“It’s taken quite some time to get even the simplest of steps in place.”
A government spokesman said: “In total, the government has made over £80 million available to support the customs intermediary sector to deal with EU trade in 2021.
“We know that some businesses are facing challenges with specific aspects of our new trading relationship, and that’s why – in addition to the £20 million SME Brexit Support Fund – we are operating export helplines, running webinars with experts and offering businesses support via our network of 300 international trade advisers.
“The latest available data shows that overall freight volumes between the UK and the EU are back to their normal levels. This has been possible thanks to the hard work put in traders and hauliers to prepare for the end of the transition period.”
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