Sunday 13 December 2020 / 9:58 AM Anneliese Dodds / Economy

Revealed: UK customs body has just sixteen more staff today than five years ago as clock ticks down on Brexit

The Government body in charge of protecting UK trade has just 16 more staff today than it did in 2015, new analysis from Labour can reveal.

In 2018, the Government committed to increasing the number of customs officials by up to 5,000 to cope with increased demand on customs procedures and border checks after Brexit.

However, new analysis by Labour reveals that the Government has left staffing levels in its tax and customs agency unchanged for half a decade. In October 2020, HMRC had 58,397 employees in total covering both tax collection and customs – just 16 more than the 58,381 it employed in October 2015. Government Ministers have been unwilling to indicate just how many additional customs officials have actually been taken on.

From 1 January, new customs checks will be required whether or not the UK negotiates a trade deal with the EU. With just 18 days to go until the end of the transition period, UK ports are already under unprecedented pressure as suppliers seek to stockpile goods before existing trade terms expire.

Labour is calling on the Chancellor to explain how he intends to fill the shortfall in customs staff and support ports so businesses can continue to trade.

Anneliese Dodds MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said:

“The Government has known for years that customs rules were going to change, deal or no deal.

“Government ministers promised me two years ago that they would double the number of customs officials to prepare for Brexit. However, HMRC only has 16 more staff today than it did in 2015 and businesses still don’t know what rules they will be trading under in just 18 days’ time.                

“British business has been working incredibly hard to keep trading, but they’ve been let down by the government’s irresponsible approach. The Chancellor needs to come out of hiding and explain to the British public how he will protect British trade.”