Britain’s tax boss has warned he needs up to £450m in extra funding and 5,000 extra staff to cope with a “no deal” Brexit.
Jon Thompson, the chief executive of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), said he would ask for “significantly” more money than already allocated to prepare for the “most extreme” divorce.
And he admitted a new customs system may not be ready by March 2019 – despite declarations expected to rise from 55 million to 255 million after Brexit.
Mr Thompson told the Public Accounts Select Committee he was “reasonably confident” the new system would be ready in time, but that there were “significant risks” and in the worst case scenario it “wouldn’t be ready”.
Image: A Labour MP said Britain could become ‘a basket case’
Labour MP Shabana Mahmood told him: “If this goes wrong it would be catastrophic for Britain’s global reputation.
“We would have queues at the Port of Dover, we would have rotting food and everyone would say ‘Brexit has happened and Britain has become a basket case’.”
Mr Thompson agreed the new system’s failure would be “catastrophic” but that only £7.3m was needed to prepare the current one as a “full-blown fallback contingency”.
Image: Customs declarations are expected to rise from 55 million to 255 million
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who sits on the committee, claimed Mr Thompson’s comments had “blown a hole” in claims a “no deal” divorce would be disastrous.
“HMRC is being asked to do the impossible, without sufficient time, resources or clarity over what a final outcome will look like,” she said.
“Despite the glib assurances given by Tory Brexiteers, it’s clearer than ever that the Government is failing to prepare properly for the extreme Brexit they have chosen.”
HMRC has been given £78m of the Government’s £250m Brexit warchest, which is being distributed among departments to prepare for leaving the EU.
Image: Brexiteers are awaiting Philip Hammond’s Autumn budget
Former UK ambassador to the EU Sir Ivan Rogers also spoke on Wednesday, warning that a “no deal” Brexit would leave the UK with no more rights than Venezuela or Yemen in terms of EU single market access.
And he suggested the bloc was looking for a divorce bill of €50bn (£44bn).
Brexiteers are awaiting Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget next month for signs of money being committed to plan for a “no deal” divorce.
Mr Hammond had previously said he would not spend funds “earlier than necessary just to make some point”.