By Costas Pitas
GAYDON, England (Reuters) – The boss of carmaker Aston Martin warned it was probably too late to roll out the kind of technology needed for the post-Brexit customs plan that is favoured by many British eurosceptics.
Chief Executive Andy Palmer told Reuters that getting the technology in place would cost millions of pounds and it seemed to be too late to do it in time for the end of a planned Brexit transition period that will run until December 2020.
“The time just doesn’t exist now,” Palmer said in an interview at the carmaker’s Gaydon plant in central England.
“You’ve got to get the interface with the government’s agencies, then you’ve got to implement it on your parts, and then you’ve got to get it out to your 10,000 suppliers from all around the world,” Palmer said. “It’s immense.”
Palmer said he could not say it would be impossible because it would depend on exactly what such arrangements would require.
Britain’s future customs relationship with the EU is likely to remain unclear at least until an EU leaders’ summit in October.
Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out staying in a customs union with the EU – the option favoured by many employers’ groups – and her government is split over two alternatives for a customs arrangement with the EU.
Brexit supporters pushing for the most independence from the bloc tend to favour a “maximum facilitation”, or “max fac”, option in which cameras and a trusted-trader system would be used to reduce delays and costs at the border.
Others in the government back a plan under which Britain would cooperate with Brussels more closely and collect tariffs on its behalf, so declarations are not required for goods crossing the EU-British border.
Earlier on Tuesday, manufacturing trade group EEF called on the government to abandon the “max fac” option, saying it was naive and a waste of money.
Last week, Britain’s most senior tax official said it could cost firms up to 20 billion pounds a year.
Asked about Aston Martin’s outlook, Palmer said he expected 2018 volumes to grow by about 20 percent to over 6,100 as James Bond’s favourite car brand pursues a turnaround plan designed to propel it to a stock market flotation as soon as this year.
The firm has pushed a U.S. sales drive in recent months and Palmer said it would be a negative if the administration of President Donald Trump hikes import tariffs to up to 25 percent following a trade investigation which was launched last week.
“If it happens, obviously it’s unwelcome,” he said. “We hope that common sense prevails.”
(Reporting by Costas Pitas)