Chaos continues to encircle post-Brexit customs procedures after UK minister Michael Gove faced questions on IT system release dates.
Mr Gove told the Future Relationship with the EU parliamentary select committee he “hoped” the Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS) be ready by 4 December and the smart freight system “December 2020”, noting that both systems were being “refined”.
When asked how this differed from being tested, he simply stated that refinement and testing were “part of the same process”.
Further adding to the confusion surrounding post-Brexit customs preparations, the government last week announced a name change to its smart freight system, which is now called the “Check a Heavy Goods Vehicle is Ready to Cross the Border service”.
A government spokesperson today clarified Mr Gove’s position to The Loadstar: “We are already testing the ‘Check an HGV is Ready to Cross the Border’ and GVMS services with industry. Both systems will go live in December.”
One source told The Loadstar the new dates conflicted with industry understanding that the systems would not be ready until next year, while another said that though he expected systems to be released in December, he questioned whether there was sufficient training time.
Chairman of the Association of Freight Software Suppliers (AFSS) Stephen Bartlett told The Loadstar: “Our concern is less linked to the government’s ability to have the software ready in time for December, but is more focused on how little time this provides haulage operators to train their staff in using these systems.”
GVMS will be used for goods coming into the UK and Mr Bartlett said more government effort would be required to inform foreign operators of how it works.
He added that while HMRC was doing “some” GVMS roadshows, the message needed to be made “loud and clear”, as an error in the start of a shipment’s journey, like incorrect vehicle registration, could see it stranded on the other side of the Channel.
Mr Bartlett said: “It feels like government has ignored industry offers to sit and work together on getting this system developed, but instead have been doing it with little consultation, handing out a version, waiting for holes to be pinpointed and then taking it back to work on alone, again.”
The British International Freight Association added to the clamour of calls for the government to step up its pre-Brexit preparations, saying: “BIFA members are looking for assurance from government that the new IT and other systems being introduced will actually work.”
Mr Gove told the committee the government had worked with some forwarders and hauliers in developing the systems, “but not every single one”.
He has also faced considerable push back after a leaked letter revealed he was preparing to apportion blame for expected queues of 7,000 lorries on logistics operators themselves.
His opposite number in the Labour Party, Rachel Reeves, told The Loadstar today the Conservatives had had four years and three prime ministers to get staff and systems to prepared, and was failing to do its part in helping businesses get ready.
“Over the last few months, I’ve met hauliers and the RHA who have all expressed dismay at the lack of engagement or preparedness,” she said. “Ministers need to pull their heads out of the sand and do everything it takes to avoid chaos and disruption, and work closely with the logistics sector in the way they should have from the outset.”