Many UK businesses “are not even close to being ready for a no-deal” Brexit, figures seen by Newsnight suggest.
In February, HMRC launched the Transitional Simplified Procedures scheme, aimed at easing imports in the event of the UK leaving the customs union and single market abruptly.
Less than 10% of the firms estimated to require the status had applied for it as of 26 May, Newsnight has found.
HMRC said it had plans to ensure “as many traders as possible are ready”.
The Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP) would allow UK firms to import goods from mainland Europe without filling out new customs declarations at the border. UK businesses would also be allowed to postpone the payment of import duties for one year.
But figures show that only 17,800 firms had applied for the TSP as of 26 May. That’s less than 10% of the total of 240,000 firms estimated to require the status by 31 October, when the UK’s latest Article 50 extension is due to expire.
“If it really is this low we’re far, far away from being day one no-deal Brexit ready – it’s a very low number,” said Mike Spicer from the British Chambers of Commerce.
“The TSP data is terrible,” said Matt Griffith of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce.
“The top level lesson is that most small firms are not even close to being ready for a No Deal scenario.”
BBC News Contributed To This Report