The government’s “vague” Brexit plan has been compared to a “chocolate orange” by the boss of the UK’s public spending watchdog.
Sir Amyas Morse said ministers had to be more “united” or the project would fall apart “at the first tap” like the segments of the chocolate treat.
The National Audit Office head said it would be a “horror show” if officials were forced to manually process imports and exports,
Sir Amyas said he had “expressed interest” to Brexit Secretary David Davis and officials at the Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) in seeing a report on the overall preparedness across government but the response had been “vague”.
A significant increase will be needed in border staff to cope with a massive increase on the service once Britain leaves the customs union, said the chief auditor.
As a member of the EU’s customs union, the UK does not impose taxes or require customs declarations on goods from other member states – but as part of Brexit ministers plan to leave the customs union and negotiate a new arrangement in its place.
Revenue & Customs (HMRC) estimates this will mean the number of annual customs declarations will rise from 55 million to 255 million after March 2019, with an estimated 180,000 traders making customs declarations for the first time.
The ageing system – being replaced just two months before Brexit is due to happen – could cope with only 100 million declarations, the NAO said.