Wales politics

Brexit 'danger' to Welsh ferry ports if border hardens

Sign for ferry and rail passengers at Holyhead Port

There is a "real danger" that ferry freight traffic could be diverted away from Wales if there was a hard border with Ireland, a Labour AM has claimed.

Eluned Morgan said leaving the European customs union could require "immense infrastructure" at Welsh ports.

In response to concerns, Brexit minister David Jones told AMs on Tuesday that it "remains to be seen" whether there will be customs checks.

It is not yet clear what kind of border would exist with Ireland after Brexit.

There have been calls for the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to remain fully open after the UK leaves the European Union.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said she wants a "seamless, frictionless border".

The United Kingdom has had a common travel area with the republic since the 1920s.

Ms Morgan fears that, if the border between the north and south of Ireland remains "soft", it could result in more stringent checks between Wales and Ireland.

"There is a real danger that if there is a hard border with Wales, but a soft border with Northern Ireland, then freight will be transported via the easier borderless route from Belfast to Liverpool or Cairnryan to Larne," the Mid and West Wales AM said.

"Four hundred lorries an hour pour off the ferry at Holyhead, and in the summer we welcome hordes of tourists from the Irish Republic to Wales through Fishguard," she added.

"If we were outside the customs union, it is hard to see how these goods and people could be let in without being inspected."

Image caption Eluned Morgan said a hard border at Welsh ports would require "more money" and "more red tape"

"In order to do that the port would have to create an immense infrastructure to park all 400 lorries."

The customs union is the agreement where countries in the EU do not impose tariffs on each other's goods and put common external tariffs on goods from countries outside the agreement.

Ms Morgan said the fallout of Brexit could mean "more money, more infrastructure and more red tape".

Image caption David Jones said it remains to be seen if there would be customs checks

Ms Morgan put her concerns to Brexit Minister David Jones at a hearing of the assembly's external affairs committee on Monday.

He said there had been discussions with the UK's Border Force on the issue and that the Home Office was in process of developing policy.

Mr Jones said Holyhead was "very important" for freight traffic.

He said the Anglesey port "already had problems" in terms of lorries, with a lorry park opened there to ease the issue.

Asked by Plaid Cymru AM Steffan Lewis whether there would be customs and border checks, Mr Jones said: "That remains to be seen.

"The importance of freedom of movement on the island of Ireland and between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom is something that the government regards as paramount.

"Therefore we intend to come up with a solution to what otherwise might seem to be a difficult problem.

"We intend to make sure that the common travel area continues."

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