UK trade organisation, British International Freight Association (BIFA), has welcomed news of a €8.8 million government funding scheme for customs intermediaries and traders.
Grants have reportedly been made available for all customs intermediaries and traders completing customs declarations. The aim of the grants, according to BIFA, is to support training and the upgrade of IT systems.
BIFA said the government has actively engaged with freight forwarders, independent customs brokers, and fast parcel operators in order to understand the needs and challenges industry bodies face in supporting current and future clients. This scheme is intended to help support the extra demand for customs brokerage services associated with the UK’s departure from the EU, as well as issues associated with the replacement of the current system used to process customs entries.
“During our meetings with both HM Treasury and [Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs] HMRC, BIFA highlighted the concerns of our members regarding the capability of the Customs brokerage sector to increase capacity, at a time when that sector already faces a shortage of staff of suitable quality,” said BIFA Director General, Robert Keen.
“We emphasised that it could take up to a year to train staff to be fully conversant to prepare a range of basic Customs declarations, even if there was a sufficient number of trainers to train those staff, as well as relevant courses for them to attend.
“So, the news of this funding is very welcome,” he said.
The grant includes HMRC providing an investment of £3 million (€3.3 million) to fund increasing training capacity.
BIFA also noted that the grants include £2 million (€2.2 million) to fund training for intermediaries and traders completing customs declarations (or intending to complete customs declarations in the future). The grant will provide funding for up to 50 per cent of the cost of training staff.
There is also £3 million (€3.3 million) available in IT improvement funding, available to small and medium sized employers in the customs intermediaries sector currently completing customs declarations on behalf of importers and exporters. The grant will fund investment in packaged software that increases the automation and productivity of completing customs declarations.
In alerting its members to the funding, BIFA is encouraging those who believe they might benefit to apply early. Applications will close on 5 April 2019, or earlier once all the funding is allocated.