Danny McCance 2 Aug 2019 11:38am

Make Brexit “top priority”, chancellor tells HMRC

Chancellor of the exchequer Sajid Javid has told HMRC to redouble its efforts on no-deal Brexit preparation, amid concerns over the impact on exports

In a letter to the Revenue, seen by the Financial Times, Javid told outgoing HMRC CEO Jon Thompson that he wanted “delivery focused updates” to be given on a weekly basis.

The Revenue has come under fire in recent months for its preparations in the build up to Brexit, with concerns remaining over how the UK’s borders will fare come the October deadline.

In particular, the Treasury fears that many SMEs are unprepared for the affects of any new tariffs that may be introduced, or for the impact of new checks and controls that may occur after the UK exits the EU, according to the FT.

“HMRC has a system ready to handle customs declarations after Brexit, is rolling out a new Customs Declaration Service alongside this and has delivered new processes at the UK’s borders,” an HMRC spokesperson said.

“We’ve updated Parliament on our progress regularly and continue to prioritise preparing the UK for leaving the EU on 31 October,” they added.

In October last year delays in the implementation of a new Brexit customs system drew the ire of the Public Accounts Committee, which said it was “concerned and disappointed” over the lack of progress made.

The spokesperson said the Revenue had been preparing since the referendum, communicating with businesses and having “hundreds of meetings” with industry representatives”.

It has employed 5,000 new staff members “specifically to support Brexit” and published guidance on Brexit preparation.

In March, just eight days before the previous Brexit deadline, the House of Commons Treasury Committee expressed astonishment that the government seemed not to know the impact that tariffs would have on businesses in the event of a no-deal.

A month prior, HMRC said it would relax the border to EU imports during the first year after a no-deal Brexit in order to avoid congestion at UK ports, writing to 145,000 businesses to tell them that goods coming from the EU would be “waved through” initially.

Earlier this week, the CBI released a report stating that, “No one is ready for a no-deal”.