Industry calls for ‘Max-Fac’ option to be dropped

Published:  15 June, 2018

Britain’s manufacturers are calling on the Government to abandon further examination of the so-called ‘Max-Fac’ option for future UK and EU Customs, describing the idea that it could implemented by 2020 as ‘naïve’ and ‘wholly unrealistic’ with the consequences of getting it wrong as ‘immense’.

The call comes on the back of the cost estimates released recently by HMRC to the Treasury Select Committee and a recent visit to Canadian Customs by EEF Chief Executive, Stephen Phipson. During the visit Mr 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, Mr 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, Mr 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.

Commenting, 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.

Phipson highlighted that much of the debate on Max-Fac is misguided: “No one doubts the technology exists: it is in place in many locations around the world.” However he explained that 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 Max-Fac is a solution to our immediate problems is a non-starter.”

Phipson, who has visited both the US and Canada border, said that the reality is that most Canadian SME businesses can’t easily access the Max-Fac 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.”

He admitted that the Government has a difficult job. But emphasised: “It is not for us to tell Government what the new arrangements must be – that is a political decision.” He warned that the 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.”

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