How to keep billions of tons of goods flowing with the EU

  • Government
  • Solutions
  • Jordi Ferrer
  • 2021
29 June 2021

How to keep billions of tons of goods flowing with the EU

UK/EU trade is a big business, with UK imports from the EU hitting £374bn back in 2019.

But now, five years after the 2016 referendum, that trade relationship is undergoing a seismic shift. The UK’s exit from the European trading bloc in January this year saw an end to the free movement of goods and services, bringing back entry certificates, customs declarations, and physical checks after 48 years.

With nearly half a trillion pounds worth of goods on the line, the relationship between the UK and the EU is changing and bringing with it a new urgency to the issue of supply chain efficiency.

The fundamental problem is, when it comes to goods, if you can’t move it, you can’t use it. So if business is to successfully move forward, something has to change.

So how have companies been reacting to this new normal? And how can we keep trade flowing?

Access denied?

Before 2021, all hauliers had to do was load and drive. Now, they have a whole new world of bureaucracy to contend with – from limits on their movements, to the goods they carry.

The government deferment period on declarations for goods originating in the EU is just one initiative designed to ease the immediate strain on businesses caused by this added red tape. The scheme gives businesses an extra 175 days – six months – to submit information around any goods they import.

But with this grace period due to finish at the end of 2021, some businesses are set to face a very rude awakening at the start of 2022. With an estimated 205–338 million extra customs declarations due per year, and any delay to the relevant paperwork likely to bring goods traffic to a halt, businesses need to adjust, and fast. In fact, stats from earlier this year show only 31% are prepared for the new customs regime.

Ordinarily, businesses might turn to intermediaries to deal with this glut of customs paperwork. But a surge in interest means demand has fast outstripped supply, and prices are skyrocketing.

There’s no need to panic, however. Technology offers smart solutions to this new reality.

Full speed ahead

If external brokers are one end of the spectrum, at the other end are those businesses already experienced in trading internationally with non-EU regions. They are likely to have customs teams and tools that allow them to raise declarations directly with the HMRC’s CHIEF customs platform as a result. But this kind of specialist solution comes at a cost, and isn’t practical for everyone.

For businesses that feel caught between a rock and a hard place with these options, there is now an alternative. Fujitsu Digital Trader Services has launched a new offering which provides a middle way: a complete ‘digital’ declaration service for traders who do not have sufficient in-house expertise, but are struggling to find customs brokers to serve their needs.

A ServiceNow partner for some years, Fujitsu uses our workflow technology across a wide range of its core business operations, from telco through to healthcare.

Having kept a close eye on developments around the movement of goods, Fujitsu saw an opportunity use this relationship and ServiceNow technology to streamline the future of trade post-Brexit.

Combining Fujitsu’s sector know-how, and ServiceNow’s leading workflow technology, Digital Trader Services enables anyone within a business to manage their customs processes simply and effectively.

To ease the process and keep business moving, Digital Trader Services also offers access to expert advice through the Institute of Export and International Trade to address the more complex questions businesses may have on these new processes. And with trade fluctuating throughout the year, they ensure there’s a flexibility to scale services up and down according to seasonal demand.

The end result is that businesses are back in control of their goods, data entry is kept to an absolute minimum, and traffic between the two markets is smoothed – making the border feel just as invisible as it did before.

This has huge positive ramifications not just for Great Britain and the EU, but for anywhere a customs border exists.

The future of trade, with ServiceNow

So, what does the future hold?

With the right technology, the answer is simplicity and agility.

With over 25 different UK government agencies involved in the movement of goods and people, the process can get overly complicated, very quickly. But Fujitsu’s collaboration with ServiceNow shows why it doesn’t have to be this way.

Simplicity won’t happen overnight, but there are clear avenues to almost-frictionless trade available for businesses to utilise now: not least in the shape of a government trade window that enables industries to better work with the government in transporting goods.

ServiceNow can play a key role here. With our workflow technology, access to government services can become seamless and efficient – ensuring that trade stays simple now, and in the future.

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