British manufacturers said the government should abandon one of its main customs proposals for after Brexit, criticising the so-called 'max fac' option as unrealistic and a waste of money.
EEF said that it was naive to think that the system, favoured by some who want looser ties with the European Union after Britain leaves the bloc, could be implemented by 2020.
The call comes on the back of the cost estimates released last week by HMRC to the Treasury Select Committee and a recent visit to Canadian Customs by EEF chief executive, Stephen Phipson.
During the visit, Phipson was able to see at first-hand how technology operates across the US/Canada Border.
In a letter to the Business Secretary, Greg Clark, Phipson revealed that despite a decade of substantial investment on both sides of the Border by two willing partners only 100 of the most trusted Canadian companies are able to use a ‘fast track’ system across the Border.
The vast majority of goods are still subject to normal customs checks.
In response, Phipson is calling on the government to stop wasting public money and precious time examining an option for ideological reasons which is unrealistic and, instead, put all its collective resources into finding a solution which is workable.
Stephen Phipson, said: “UK manufacturers operate highly complex integrated supply chains with Europe, which rely on “just in time” delivery. Think about the Dover-Calais route.
“When the police have to implement Operation Stack to deal with industrial action there are queues for miles that bring Kent to a standstill. If we had to put every lorry through even a modest customs check the tailbacks would stretch from Dover to London and Calais to Paris”.
“Much of the debate on MaxFac is misguided. No one doubts the technology exists: it is in place in many locations around the world.
“The issue is whether it is good enough to provide a frictionless border and can be implemented quickly enough to be ready for December 2020.
“I think that the answer to this is an overwhelming no. It may have some long term benefits, but suggesting MaxFac is a solution to our immediate problems is a non-starter”.
“I have been to the US and Canada border and the reality is that most Canadian SME businesses can’t easily access the MaxFac arrangements.
“Whilst some do qualify for a streamlined process, the majority are still subject to the full customs check. The Canadian process is particularly efficient and well managed, but the reality is that this is time consuming and at busy times often has long delays. Apply that to Dover and the consequences are horrendous.”
“We recognise government has a difficult job and it is not for us to tell government what the new arrangements must be – that is a political decision.
“But that political decision has economic consequences for thousands of British businesses and real financial implications for the millions of people who work for them and the entire country who rely on their products.
“We have an absolute responsibility to highlight fundamental flaws in one of the options that still remains on under serious consideration.
“I hope that the government now recognises that one of these options is simply not credible. We need to put all of our resources into developing a workable solution, and quickly.”