Welsh ports are key to the future success of Britain’s trading relationships post-Brexit, said the Freight Transport Association (FTA), which represents the UK’s freight and logistics industry. Its thoughts follow Friday’s publication of the results of the National Assembly for Wales’ inquiry into the implication of Brexit for Welsh Ports, FTA has called for the Assembly to keep the pressure on the national government to ensure that trading relationships and customs arrangements at Welsh ports are at the heart of the ongoing Brexit negotiations.
Having given evidence in front of the Inquiry earlier this year, Ian Gallagher, FTA’s Head of Policy for Wales, 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, as Gallagher pointed out, 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.
“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 55m 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.”
Industry estimates indicate that the number of HGVs transiting through Holyhead rose by 630% from 1992-2015, from 54,000 to 392,000 per year. This sum represents around half of all goods vehicles moving between Dublin/Rosslare and the English and Welsh ports. And with a 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.
In support of the committee’s recommendation Gallagher added: “The Welsh Assembly must continue to press central government on the need to ensure that Welsh ports can support business adequately and efficiently, and urgently considers ways to mitigate potential shortfalls in capacity which may occur. Logistics needs to be at the heart of the Welsh government’s communications with Westminster, to ensure that the country’s business interests can continue to flourish in a post-Brexit world and FTA is happy to provide any and all support needed to ensure that trade can continue to flow freely.”
FTA represents all modes of the UK’s freight and logistics sector on behalf of its 16,000 members. The UK remains a leader in logistics at a global level, ranked in the top ten countries in terms of logistics performance, and the sector contributes 11% of the UK’s non-financial business economy. In 2016, 2.54 million people were employed in logistics in the UK, approximately 8% of the UK’s workforce. FTA members operate over 220,000 goods vehicles - half the UK fleet - consign over 90 per cent of the freight moved by rail and 70% of sea and air freight.