With four months left until the end of the transition period, marking the UK's final separation from the European Union, the government has just begun researching its new post-Brexit customs IT system.
According to Bloomberg, HMRC is inviting hauliers to take part in rounds of remote-user testing for its Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS). These tests will involve hour-long video calls for stakeholders to try prototypes and provide feedback.
HMRC will use the GVMS to police trade across the Irish Sea - which Boris Johnson famously promised would have "no forms, no checks, no barriers of any kind" - from the 1st January 2021, and all UK-EU trade from July.
Haulage firms will receive a unique reference number proving they have completed the necessary paperwork. Without that number, trucks will not be allowed to cross between the UK and the continent.
Sources in the freight industry told Bloomberg News that the short deadline - there are less than 90 working days until the GVMS is due to be introduced - is a cause for concern. The Service will be required even if the UK does manage to sign an eleventh hour free-trade agreement.
Anna Jerzewska, founder of customs and trade consultancy Trade and Borders, said:
"The Government has made it clear that GVMS is unlikely to be ready for January 1 and as far as we understand there will be back-up procedures in place. It will be crucial to ensure that such alternatives are available in places where traffic management will be important [such as Kent and the Irish Sea]."
The government published its explanatory framework on post-Brexit UK-EU data flows - worth more than £120 billion - earlier this year.
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