Guidance funding to help UK companies cope with a possible no-deal Brexit imposts system has had a “concerningly low” take-up, BBC News has learned.
In December, the Treasury and Gate & Customs unveiled an £8m training fund companies and trade intermediaries such as conveyance forwarders could apply to.
BBC Newsnight has learned that just 741 public limited companies have applied for the grants.
HMRC says it is doing “everything we can to employees businesses get ready for leaving the EU”.
An estimated 240,000 UK businesses currently swop with the EU. Many of these would be expected to need training if the traditions system changed.
The government funding aims to support employee set and IT improvements to complete customs declarations, in a no-deal scenario.
As the UK is in the EU single vend and customs union – which help trade between EU members by slaying checks and tariffs (taxes on imports) – these businesses currently name no customs barriers at all.
But in a no-deal scenario, the UK would immediately leave the EU with no withdrawal understanding.
And that would include leaving the single market and customs conjunction, so the way in which companies trade with the EU would change.
“Such a low number of firms applying for grant-funding is concerning and signals the be in want of for much greater levels of awareness among affected firms to guarantee they are prepared,” said Mike Spicer, director of policy at the British Legislatures of Commerce.
“Ultimately this is another example of why avoiding a messy and noisy exit in October is so important.”
Nicole Sykes, head of EU Negotiations at the Confederation of British Application (CBI), said the government had failed to adequately publicise the scheme.
“Many petite firms would bite the government’s hand off to access funds to withstand no-deal preparation,” she said.
“But if information about those funds is forgot in a corner of a website, then take-up is going to be low.”
In June, Newsnight revealed trifling than a third of relevant companies had so far applied for an economic operator and registration pigeon-holing (EORI) number from HMRC.
This is the most basic stiff authorisation that companies would need to continue trading with the EU in the occurrence of a no-deal Brexit.
Boris Johnson’s new government is reported to be planning a £100m Harry information campaign to prepare the country for a no-deal outcome.
During the Standard leadership campaign, Mr Johnson said a no-deal Brexit would be “vanishingly low-cost, if we prepare”.
When the grant scheme was unveiled, the then Financial Secretary to the Funds, Mel Stride, said: “I’m really pleased we are investing £8m to support the sector and assistants them expand their capacity as we prepare to leave the EU.”
An HMRC valid told Newsnight: “HMRC has been preparing energetically for Brexit every day since the referendum.
“We last will and testament continue to remind and support businesses to prepare to leave the EU on 31 October 2019.”
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