Without a commercial agreement between London and Brussels huge infrastructure issues will blight British imports and exports for years – with huge financial impacts on the EU too.
In 2016, trade between the UK and EU was worth €433 billion, while every year there are 4-5 million goods passages between Dover and Calais.
But after Brexit, a huge backlog of goods vehicles desperate to get through the ports could last for seven years, according to business consultancy KPMG.
Bob Jones, Head of Customs Excise and International Trade Services at KPMG UK, said there was “a huge amount of work to be done in a very short and frankly unrealistic timescale if we are to facilitate even a reasonably frictionless trading arrangement with the EU.”
He said that with no process for bringing goods in or out of the UK agreed in advance, businesses would be burdened with huge delays and decreased profits.
Businesses in Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Amsterdam, Vienna, Warsaw and Istanbul all import goods to the UK through Calais and Dover and are desperate to retain access to the UK market.
Rather than risk losses by moving business elsewhere, KPMG calculations predict the number of customs declarations across the UK and EU will quintuple after Brexit.
The number of British and Commonwealth importers into the EU will also increase from 50,000 today to 130,000 in March 2019, causing problems at the borders.
Thousands of customs officers will have to be hired in the EU and UK to process extensive documentation, given the customs points in Calais and at Eurotunnel in Britain are currently staffed by just 350 agents in total.
Mr Jones claims: “Border authorities can expect to receive tens of thousands of new customs submissions every day, creating an unprecedented burden on resources.”
He adds: “If businesses and governments fail to implement the right working systems by the time the UK leaves the customs union, we could see thousands of lorries being held up – already a frequent occurrence at the Turkey/Bulgarian border.”
Brexit talks will therefore have to move forward to trade and customs quickly to ensure trade can continue – for the benefit of Britain and the EU.
(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)