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Belgium hires extra customs officers ahead of Brexit
As 29 March draws closer, Belgium has been busy preparing for a possible no-deal Brexit by hiring hundreds of new customs officers.
141 officers have been recruited recently, with about 200 more to follow. They are being trained in groups of about 20 a time at the finance ministry in Brussels before being assigned to control goods at Zaventem and Charleroi airports or the ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge.
The customs administration is bracing for the new difficulties that it will face after the UK’s potential exit from the EU without a deal next month. With the new complexities comes a much heavier workload. Export declarations are estimated to rise by almost 50%, according to the Customs Administration.
Some 43% of goods at the port of Zeebrugge are either going to or from England, making it the port’s largest trading partner. After 29 March, customs wait times will most likely be much longer and require customs teams to reorganise.
A large portion of food production also goes to England. Despite the looming difficulties Brexit is bringing, many companies have not taken action in getting their EORI number, the customs verification number they will soon need to have when trading with UK companies.
According to the General Administration of Customs and Excise, only about one quarter of companies have applied for their number, leaving the administration to contact 5,000 companies via telephone, and the rest through mail, to remind them.