Trade group warns 3,000 customs agents needed for hard Brexit

Call for €50m in EU funding to train staff to process surge in post-Brexit customs forms

Up to 3,000 extra customs agents and a €50 million fund to train them will be required to process the surge in the volume of declarations on traded goods after Brexit, a group representing freight forwarders has said.

The number of customs, safety and security, and transit declarations that will have to be filled out after Brexit will surge from almost five million annually to about 50 million if the UK crashes out of the EU without an agreement, it is estimated.

Tom Thornton, Brexit spokesman for the Irish International Freight Association, said between 2,500 and 3,000 new staff will be required to handle this vast increase in declarations that must be submitted by importers and exporters transporting goods in and out of the country in a no-deal scenario.

Crash-out challenges

A "significant" Government fund, estimated at up to €50 million, would be required to train such large numbers of staff and this should be sourced from a pool of EU funding, as other countries such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands which trade closely with the UK will require help too, he said.


"If we crash out, it is going to be a struggle. There is no doubt about that," Mr Thornton said. He is managing director of the Dublin logistics company Wells Cargo.

“Overnight, we are all going to be faced with a significant increase in declarations and we are going to struggle to have the manpower in place.”

The political uncertainty around whether or not a deal will be agreed this week at Westminster ahead of the UK’s exit on March 29th was complicating the timing of the recruitment of staff, said Mr Thornton.

Businesses were reluctant to hire staff to deal with increased declarations immediately in case a deal was agreed and the “standstill” transition period kicked in leaving staff idle until December 2020, he said.

“You cannot recruit staff and then have them doing nothing for a year-and-a-half,” he said.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent