Border ‘a ficticious problem’ Dutch expert tells MPs

A Dutch customs expert has told MPs that the problem over the Irish border question in Brexit is “a fictitious problem”.

Hans Massen, a former chairman of the Dutch Association of Customs Brokers, made the claim while giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in Westminster yesterday.

Hans Massen, a former chairman of the Dutch Association of Customs Brokers, told the NI Affairs Committee the methods used in the Dutch port of Rotterdam.

Hans Massen, a former chairman of the Dutch Association of Customs Brokers, told the NI Affairs Committee the methods used in the Dutch port of Rotterdam.

Mr Massen told MPs he had read a paper on the issue they published in May and “I was surprised about what was not in there”.

“So many things were not in there about customs practice, about systems that are available that can be used that are on the table that are a solution for the Northern Ireland border.”

He said the available systems can be used to reach “a transparent [Irish] border” at the end of the 21-month transition period. He explained that a customs broker makes declarations to customs officials on behalf of exporters. The fact that MPs did not know this underlined how much they did not understand about the issue, he said.

His proposals include comprehensive use of electronic declarations, use of customs brokers and HMRC carrying out customs inspection at company premises. This was not technology based but uses existing EU approved practices, he said.

“In Rotterdam, being the biggest port in Europe ... there is a vast amount of containers coming in every day and we would handle that from somewhere inland. Everything is virtual nowadays. I don’t talk to customs officers anymore, I talk to a customs computer. Everything is computerised. I never see goods, goods are defined on paper.”