The British International Freight Association (BIFA) is urging its 1,600 members to respond to a government review of the customs intermediary sector.

The review, announced in the 2023 Spring Budget, follows one undertaken in 2022, and is seeking views on the introduction of a voluntary standard for customs intermediaries.

The previous review found traders can struggle to identify a good quality intermediary to support them with trade. As a result this latest consultation is seeking views on the proposed introduction of a voluntary standard for customs intermediaries, to help improve sector standards.

Steve Parker, BIFA director general, said: “Our members, which are responsible for managing the movement of a significant proportion of the UK’s cross border trade, are at the sharp end when it comes to customs processes."

He added: “Whilst there is currently no requirement for intermediaries to have a formal accreditation or qualification in the UK, BIFA will be interested to see what happens to the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) scheme should the consultation lead to the creation of a voluntary standard.

“The member area of BIFA’s website is a fantastic resource for anyone that is looking for help with customs processes and declarations; and whilst they are collectively referred to as freight forwarders, customs intermediary services are provided by a significant proportion of the 1,600 plus corporate members of the association, many of which are AEO accredited.

Read more

Parker pointed out the key role customs intermediaries play in keeping trade flowing, many of whom are BIFA members.

He said "According to HMRC Trade Statistics and Customs Analysis, 78% of all customs declarations for international trade in 2022 were intermediated by a third party, and 99% of traders relied solely on the use of an intermediary to declare all of their trade.

"It would be no surprise to hear that a large percentage of those third party suppliers are BIFA members, which is why their input into this latest consultation is key."

Parker added that the latest consultation is all part of government’s previously stated ambition to create “the most effective border in the world” by 2025. He pointed to the difficulties created by the impact of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic on supply chains.

He said: “BIFA remains ready to work with government to provide a collective view from those companies that have keep trade flowing during a very difficult few years as a consequence of the UK’s exit from the EU, plus the impact of the COVID pandemic on supply chains.

‘But it is important that individual member companies also make their views known and we hope that government is ready to listen to our members’ thoughts and learn from them.”