Freight News, Sea

Brexit could harm Welsh ports, says report

[ August 4, 2017   //   ]

A Welsh assembly committee report has repeated earlier warnings that Brexit could hit the country’s ports particularly badly. It said that there could be long delays and tailbacks at Holyhead and elsewhere if traffic to and from Ireland had to undergo customs clearance.

The cross-party external affairs committee added that it was disappointed that there had been little contact between the Welsh and Irish governments to discuss Brexit.

The report added that a ‘soft’ border in Ireland but a ‘hard’ at Irish Sea ports could divert traffic via Northern Ireland”.

Committee chairman David Rees said that many Welsh ports would not have the space for customs and immigration checks, which would lead to delays and congestion.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has called on the Welsh Assembly to keep the pressure on the Westminster government to ensure that trading relationships and customs arrangements at Welsh ports are at the heart of the ongoing Brexit negotiations. It follows publication of the results of the National Assembly for Wales’ inquiry into the implication of Brexit for Welsh Portson 4 August.

Having given evidence in front of the Inquiry earlier this year, FTA’s head of policy for Wales, Ian Gallagher said he was pleased that the committee had noted FTA’s concerns over the need for the maintenance of so-called frictionless trading arrangements between the mainland and both Northern and the Republic of Ireland. However, it is imperative that the Welsh administration takes urgent steps to ensure that business is not unfairly penalised by a lack of adequate planning to ensure that trade continues to flow through Wales to and from the mainland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

He said: “The committee’s findings are a great starting point,” he said, “but they are only that – and there is much work to be done.  Approximately 55 million tonnes of trade travelled through Welsh ports in 2015 and any delays caused by inadequate customs provision could be catastrophic for the businesses on both side of the Irish Sea which rely on this transport link.

“Transport and logistics are the lifeblood of the Welsh economy, and its relationships with Ireland and the rest of the British mainland. It is vital that pressure is maintained on central government to ensure that the needs of the logistics sector are taken into account during the ongoing Brexit negotiations, to protect Welsh trading relationships and ensure safe and timely passage of goods to their end user.

“To ensure that Wales and the rest of the UK can continue to trade effectively with Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the European Union, it is vital that delays in port areas are kept to a minimum following Brexit.  The needs of the freight sector must be paramount if trade is to continue without time delays or increased costs.”

The number of HGVs transiting through Holyhead rose by around 630% from 1992 to 2015, from 54,000 to 392,000 per year – half of all goods vehicles moving between Dublin/Rosslare and the English and Welsh ports

FTA warns that failure to make adequate provision for additional processes now required at the borders threatening not just Welsh business’ profitability, but industry further afield, Gallagher is keen for the Welsh government to carry out the recommendations of the committee:

“All parties need to consider the consequences of the potential reintroduction of border checks on goods, not just for Wales but the UK and the rest of Europe,” he said.

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