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UK customs says staff shortage won’t mean Brexit anarchy
New automobiles manufactured by Suzuki Motor Corp. stand on the dockside in Grimsby, U.K., on Friday, March 8, 2019. Demand for automobile in Europe fizzled late in 2018 due to a combination of emissions-testing bottlenecks and economic headwinds, signaling an abrupt end to years of robust growth. Photographer: Darren Staples/Bloomberg

UK customs says staff shortage won’t mean Brexit anarchy

PARIS : Britain does not have enough customs agents to cope with the additional stresses of a no-deal Brexit, one of the officials responsible for infrastructure at its border with the EU said on Thursday, though she dismissed fears of “anarchy in the UK”.

Just weeks before Britain is due to leave the European Union on Oct. 31, there is still no deal in place to ensure smooth trade with the bloc following Brexit.

Speaking in Paris, revenue and customs agency (HMRC) official Margaret Whitby said HMRC believed the infrastructure and IT systems were in place to ensure no extra checks would be needed on the 5 million trucks a year that cross the English Channel and North Sea providing customs declarations were lodged in advance.

But she acknowledged that half of British businesses that trade with the EU were not ready for an Oct. 31 Brexit and that there would be tailbacks at ports if trucks arrived without the correct customs documentation.

“We recognise in the UK that we don’t have enough customs agents at the moment to cover the anticipated need,” Whitby told a forum for French businesses entitled ‘Brexit – Get Ready!’.

Nonetheless, having walked on stage to a Sex Pistols soundtrack, Whitby quipped: “There will be no anarchy in the UK if we leave the EU without a deal on October 31.”

Britain was implementing traffic management systems and setting up sites across Kent in the southeast where transit documents can be processed ahead of arrival at the port of Dover or the Eurotunnel rail crossing.