Brexit could threaten Welsh ports and bring road delays, Assembly Committee warns
Lengthy delays, tailbacks on Welsh roads and disruption to freight supply chains could become the norm without proper planning for ports in Wales following Britain's exit from the European Union, a National Assembly Committee has warned.
Many Welsh ports currently lack the appropriate infrastructure and physical capacity to accommodate new border controls and customs checks that may be requited after Brexit, a new report from the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee has found.
The committee also raised concerns that the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Ken Skates AM, has been slow to seek meetings with his Irish counterparts and other EU member states on the issue of Welsh ports.
Other recommendations to the Welsh Government include:
that it continues to press the UK Government to ensure that Welsh ports are not unfairly disadvantaged by a 'softer border' arrangement between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which could lead to freight traffic being re-routed to ports in England and Scotland via Northern Ireland;
that it seeks clarity from the UK Government on the cost of any new IT-led customs arrangements post Brexit and how it expects this to be funded; and
that it begins detailed contingency planning for Welsh ports for the various scenarios that Wales could face at the end of the Article 50 notice period and that this is reflected in the upcoming Ports Strategy.
David Rees AM, Chair of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee said:
"Welsh ports directly support 18,400 jobs, and many more besides. At the moment, Holyhead and Fishguard both work on the premise of seamless travel from one side of the Irish Sea to the other for goods and people. We learned that many Welsh ports lack the physical capacity to accommodate new customs and border checks, which could have an unwelcome effect including increased delays and congestion.
"We also know that there are fears in the industry that a future soft border in Northern Ireland, whilst a harder border exists across the Irish Sea, could pose a risk to Welsh ports as traffic may re-route to ports in England and Scotland. This would have a serious economic impact in Wales, and it is vital that the Welsh Government works with the UK Government to ensure that our ports and our industries aren't unfairly disadvantaged by Brexit."