The UK Government’s rhetoric on trade with the EU has “collided with reality” as trade through Welsh ports has “slumped,” according to a Welsh MP.
Lorry traffic through Holyhead, the UK’s second largest roll-on-roll-off port, has fallen to about one-third of its usual capacity, according to the head of UK ports for port operator Stena, while the volume of freight travelling on the Fishguard to Rosslare route is down around 70 per cent on this time last year.
Due to concerns about disruption arising from the UK’s withdrawal from the Single Market and Customs Union on 1 January, many hauliers have opted for direct routes between Ireland and the European mainland.
The Irish Ferries WB Yeats ship has also been switched from the Irish Sea Dublin-Holyhead route to the Dublin-Cherbourg three months in advance.
DFDS, northern Europe’s largest integrated shipping and logistics company, also started a new ferry service between Rosslare and Dunkirk on January 2nd.
Tonight Stena announced that another ship, Stena Embla, would not travel from Belfast as planned but be deployed on the Rosslare to Cherbourg route from tomorrow.
Arfon’s Hywel Williams raised concerns about the economic impact of trade being rerouted to bypass Wales due to new trade barriers.
‘Burying heads in sand’
Hywel Williams asked the Cabinet Minister, Michael Gove, “if he is aware of any government assessment of the economic impact of this rerouting on the port of Holyhead and the wider economy of the north-west of Wales”.
In his response, Michael Gove said that “there is no evidence yet that [the new ferry route] has taken anything but a small fraction of the trade that goes through the land bridge”.
Speaking after the session, Hywel Williams MP said: “The Westminster government’s rhetoric on trade yet again collides with reality. For years, Plaid Cymru has warned that the UK Government’s reckless approach to negotiations with the EU and its lack of preparation would lead to difficulties for Welsh ports but were repeatedly rebuffed.
“Even when the significant loss of traffic to other routes is clear, the Tories choose to bury their heads in the sand.
“I urge the UK Government to work with the Welsh Government to provide substantial investment into Welsh ports to secure their viability into the future. If the trend of rerouting traffic through direct routes continues, I fear that our local economies both in the north-west and south-west of Wales will suffer enormously.”
The Welsh Government said that following they expected a “quiet” start to the New Year freight levels were expected to rise at Holyhead port around the middle of the month.