Scope of the inquiry
A report by National Audit Office (NAO) in October 2018 found that the additional resources required to operate the UK border, including the necessary infrastructure, may not be ready by March 2019. The NAO report underlined the importance of effectively managing the border to the UK’s national security, and noted the scale of the task ahead for the Government within a relative short time frame. Furthermore, the NAO’s report warned that organised criminals and others are likely to be quick to exploit any perceived weaknesses or gaps in the enforcement regime. This, combined with the UK’s potential loss of access to EU law enforcement and national security tools, could create security weaknesses which the Government would need to address urgently.
In November 2018, the Committee questioned officials from HMRC about their preparedness for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. In December, the Committee wrote to HMRC expressing the need for better communication with businesses and other stakeholders about the introduction of new arrangements. Furthermore, it outlined the Committee’s concern that organised criminals and others may exploit gaps in the UK’s infrastructure systems in the event of a ‘no-deal’ exit. The Committee now wishes to review HMRC’s progress since its last hearing, given the short amount of time left before the UK’s exit date from the EU, and question officials on a range of other issues.
Members will use this opportunity to examine HMRC’s progress since November, and to question senior officials about the required IT systems, staffing levels, and customs declarations necessary both in case of an agreement or a ‘no-deal’ scenario. The hearing will also be an opportunity to follow up with HMRC on a number of other topics of interest to the Committee including the public cost of decommissioning oil and gas infrastructure, the Customs Declarations Service (CDS), and the BBC’s use of Personal Service Companies (PSC).