in the back
A right Irish stew
Brexit red tape , Issue 1542
lorries.jpg
SUNLIT UPLANDS? Lorries queue at Larne in Northern Ireland
ONE of the many large numbers that didn’t appear on the side of any bus before the Brexit referendum was the cost of customs red tape required to move goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Last August, as it became clear that promises of free-flowing trade after the transition period were nonsense, the government unveiled “a new free-to-use Trader Support Service [TSS] backed by funding of up to £200m [to] complete digital processes on behalf of businesses importing goods into Northern Ireland”.

An old friend
By the time a hasty procurement process for operating the service had been completed, the contract had already gone over budget by 20 percent. Awarded to IT botcher par excellence Fujitsu (of Post Office IT and lost police records infamy – Eyes passim), the contract is valued at £241m and will run for a couple of years.

By that time the government will have spent a further £155m on “new technology to ensure the new processes can be fully digital and streamlined”, and traders will have no trouble dealing with the bureaucracy themselves.
(Of course they won’t. Ed.)

Volume controls
So, how is this new support service going? About as well as would be expected based on Fujitsu’s record, as the Commons Northern Ireland select committee heard last month. Sarah Hards, an executive from County Antrim-based distribution company AM Nexday, reported how “volumes of freight have really dropped” due to difficulties in getting lorries in from Great Britain, “so we are running trailers back to Northern Ireland empty or leaving them in GB”.

That’s the bit the TSS should be helping with, especially when it comes to trickier “groupage” freight – when a lorry contains more than one consignment of goods, typically for smaller exporters.

“While they pick up the phone and are very pleasant,” explained Ms Hards of the TSS operatives, “I feel like their training just has not been in-depth enough… They have been brought into this role and have no previous experience in customs or logistics whatsoever, so they really sometimes fail to grasp what you are talking about, even after a long conversation.” It would, she added, “be good to have someone on the TSS with customs experience or from a logistical background”.

Passing the parcel
The “service” follows a now familiar pattern of addressing a big problem by finding an external consultancy that stuffs the job with people who don’t know what they’re doing.

What details have been released of the Fujitsu contract show it anticipates sub-contracting 72 percent of the work – to whom, nobody knows. Thus does another large, unmentioned Brexit bill land on the taxpayer’s doormat.

More top stories in the latest issue:

FEATHERING THE NESTA
Top “nudgers” are cashing in on the valuable stakes they acquired in a company created through the privatisation of the Downing Street Nudge Unit in 2014.

TAX FOR THE MEMORIES…
HM Revenue & Customs has been caught contracting work out to people using dodgy “disguised remuneration” schemes.

BONES OF CONTENTION
Insurer Petplan has a history of doing business with and through puppy farmers or their associates, and has suspended one deal pending further investigation.

JUDGE DREAD
A crown court judge has been found guilty of misconduct after threatening a former construction boss when the pair fell out over a property development.

WACKY SPACE RACES
More on the government’s investment in satellite company OneWeb, after a top Ministry of Defence official stressed the military potential of the new tech.

POO STICKS IN THE WYE
An expert report says chicken poo run-off from the expanding poultry industry in Wales was what probably turned the River Wye putrid green last summer.

FISHER PRICE
The Scottish Salmon Company has had supplies suspended by two supermarket chains after undercover footage showed inhumane treatment of salmon.

DANGEROUS MATTER
Experts are warning about safety across the wastewater treatment and anaerobic digestion industries after an explosion at a treatment plant killed four workers.

SEA BATTLE
The appeal court has heard claims of a “manifest failure of disclosure” of crucial evidence in the “Freshwater Five” drug smuggling case.

To read all these stories in full, please buy issue 1542 of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 17th March 2021
gnitty
ALSO IN THIS ISSUE
ONLY IN THE MAGAZINE
Private Eye Issue 1542
In This Issue
Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveils give-and-take away Fudget… Prince Charmless gives interview to jester – Nursery Times Exclusive… Top IRA man confesses to being undercover editor of national newspaper… ‘He’s barking most of the time… but I stand by him’ – Downing Street Top Dog Dilyn on life with the PM… Is Rachel Johnson’s article about cutting her husband’s hair too long and should it be cut?... Europeans now refuse vaccine they were angry about not getting enough of in the first place… Henry ‘Chips’ Channon: The Diaries, 1917-1938, as told to Craig Brown

Behavioural insight
How the nudgers are feathering their Nesta

African oddity
Andrew ‘Thrasher’ Mitchell’s unlovely chums in Rwanda

Pandemic update
The coming tsunami of Covid lawsuits

Read these stories and much more - only in the magazine. Subscribe here to get delivery direct to your home and never miss an issue!
ONLY £2.00
SUBSCRIBE HERE
NEXT ISSUE ON SALE
17th March 2021
WHY SUBSCRIBE?
Private Eye Issue 1541
ALSO AVAILABLE ONLINE