UK Government’s approach to Brexit causing ‘potentially irreparable damage’ to the Wales’ ports
The UK Government’s approach to Brexit trade policy and negotiations protocol is causing “potentially irreparable damage” to Wales’ ports, researchers have said.
Colin Murray of Newcastle University and Jonathan Evershed of University College Dublin warned that the “disregard” for Welsh ports during Brexit negotiations was “part and parcel of Wales’ wider marginalisation within the political economy of the UK”.
The barriers to trade between Great Britain and the EU expanded considerably when the UK government choose not to align with EU product standards, they said. Meanwhile, the arrangements for Northern Ireland continue to involve far fewer barriers to trade.
“While this has been to Belfast Harbour’s benefit, it has proven extremely damaging to Wales’ Ireland-facing ports – Holyhead, Fishguard, and Pembroke Dock – in ways that may yet have profound political and even constitutional implications,” they said.
Before Brexit, about 50% of Northern Ireland’s trade with Great Britain was done via Dublin and Holyhead, they said in an article for the London School of Economics.
But since January 2021, goods coming from Holyhead into Dublin “have been subject to the full weight of new barriers to trade between the UK and the EU”.
“Simply put, it is now more attractive for those trading into Northern Ireland to send their goods up to Western Scotland and over the North Channel than it is to send them to Dublin and then up through the Port Tunnel and on to the M1,” they said.
“At the other end of the UK landbridge, the now ubiquitous footage of long queues of lorries at Dover is testament to the new barriers to trade that exist across the English Channel. Irish traders are increasingly loath to risk seeing their goods end up stuck in this logistical snarl up.”
They add that “these problems went (and remain) almost entirely unacknowledged and unheeded by the UK government” and that the Welsh Government’s warnings were “ignored”.
“It does not really matter that devolution is functioning properly in Wales, whereas it has been dysfunctional in Northern Ireland since Brexit; the collapse of trade through Welsh ports showcases the constitutional limitations upon devolved institutions,” they said.
“A hard Brexit is making it unattractive to trade through Welsh ports, and there is little that the Welsh Government can do to shape national policy.
“The disregard for Welsh ports during and since Brexit is part and parcel of Wales’ wider marginalisation and peripheralization within the political economy of the United Kingdom, which inchoate processes of ‘levelling up’ do not appear apt to address.”
They finish: “This illustrates key weaknesses in the UK’s constitutional approach to devolution; the inability of the devolved institutions to affect UK government planning on centralised issues, even where the decisions can have serious repercussions ‘on the ground’.”
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