The British International Freight Association (BIFA) has welcomed the latest round of state funding, totalling £50 million, to support businesses with recruitment, training and supplying IT equipment to handle an expected surge in customs declarations after the Brexit transition period expires at the end of this year.

“Whilst we welcome the additional funding, as we did when the first two rounds of funding were announced, we can only keep our fingers crossed that it produces the thousands of additional customs experts that the government agrees will be needed come 1 January 2021,” said the UK forwarder body’s director general, Robert Keen.

“Along with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which is running the scheme, we will be encouraging our members to take advantage of the funding, which could be used to support a business that is extending and taking on new staff, or to help train an existing employee to become competent in completing customs declarations.”

He added: “As one of the country’s largest providers of Customs-related training courses, BIFA decided to replicate almost its entire course range and deliver it via video conferencing, due to the Covid-19 crisis preventing face-to-face training.”

Keen concluded: “Government guidance allows furloughed employees to engage in training, provided that whilst undertaking the training the employee does not provide service to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation.

“Hence, we are encouraging members that have furloughed employees to take advantage of the additional funding that has been made available by applying for it to finance some of BIFA’s online Customs training opportunities for those employees, as well as employees that have not been furloughed.“

Yesterday, an article in The Financial Times, which quoted Customs, logistics and haulage industry leaders, described the UK government’s efforts to boost the training and recruitment of some 50,000 new customs brokers for the coming trade border with the EU as “flawed” and inadequate to meet demand while the proposed £50 millon financial package was insufficient and its scope too narrow for the huge logistical challenge ahead.