Shipping yard

Plans involve thousands of trucks being waved through customs while HMRC comes up with a better long term idea

As reports of ‘Brexit preppers’ filling their cupboards with stockpiled food grow, HMRC yesterday announced its latest plans to help businesses prepare for the dreaded no-deal.

As first let slip by environment secretary Michael Gove in November, the plan basically involves tens of thousands of trucks every day being waved through customs at ports such as Dover, for at least a year, whilst HMRC tries to come up with a better plan for the long term.

The proposals haven’t exactly filled businesses with confidence that the Treasury has thought all of this through. Food and drink leaders soon pointed out the emergency proposals were more full of holes than your average watering can.

HMRC seems to forget, apart from anything else, that it’s not just the UK ports that businesses relying on EU imports and exports have to worry about.

What’s going to happen on the European side when it comes to customs checks? Will our soon-to-be ex-EU cousins be so kind when it comes to waving those Brit truckers on their merry way?

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When Gove was first asked about this in November he told MPs it was the “€64,000 question” but the answer seems all too predictable.

And the so-called Transitional Simplified Procedures, or TSP, is not the only acronym business leaders are having issues with.

HMRC yesterday urged businesses to register for an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number, without which they will be unable to benefit from the new “simplified” arrangements.

It would only take 10 minutes on the website, Her Majesty’s finest assured firms. Yet today the FDF told The Grocer it had reports of companies waiting weeks for the registrations to arrive.

This comes after The Grocer revealed a survey of major companies which showed only 50% had registered for this vital document. Today the FDF said the figure was much lower among smaller firms.

Read more: Food companies are unprepared for no-deal Brexit, according to new survey

Many small businesses, it says, have simply given up preparing for Brexit amidst all the chaos and are “hoping for the best”.

There’s something endearing about that. These are the opposite of the preppers, who are the sort of people who have probably considered installing a nuclear fallout bunker in their back gardens, complete with huge supplies of ambient goods, just in case of the ultimate no-deal Brexit.

But when businesses and HMRC take a serious look at how prepared they are for 29 March, they will be hoping more than anything that Theresa May is able to pull off some sort of last-minute breakthrough. Otherwise, whatever HMRC says, the future looks anything other than simple.