Confusion over new Brexit border checks at Holyhead
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
There are fears that the cost of carrying out extra Brexit border checks may fall on island ratepayers unless more cash is forthcoming from central Government.
Due to the presence of Holyhead Port, Anglesey Council faces having to set up a new Port Health Authority by July 2022 while also requiring extra staff to carry out the necessary checks.
Two new facilities are currently being developed at Parc Cybi to carry out new customs and border control inspections on goods entering and leaving the UK via Holyhead Port, with HMRC developing an Inland Border Facility (IBF) and the Welsh Government a separate Border Control Post (BCP).
The primary task of Port Health Authorities are to ensure food, feed and relevant products entering the UK – in this case Holyhead – have been legally imported and comply with relevant import controls relating to public, environmental and animal health.
Before the referendum, frictionless trading rules across the continent did not require any checks on such items arriving at ports like Holyhead, the second largest roll on-roll off port in the UK.
But the result of the vote – which islanders backed leaving the EU by 50.9% to 49.1% – will result in staff having to be hired in order to check goods en route to and from Ireland from July.
As part of an extended phased approach, certification and physical checks on all imported EU dairy products are not due to start until next September while similar checks on some other EU products, including fish, will not get underway until November.
With a report presented to the authority’s Executive warning that Anglesey Council “does not currently possess any port health expertise, capacity or capability”, there was no certainty either on how any extra burden falling on the council would be funded.
It went on to add: “The lack of information and clarity has impacted on the council’s ability to plan and prepare meaningfully for the anticipated changes to border controls.
“Work on developing the PHA is currently being undertaken with one off grant support from Welsh Government, with no clarity or certainty in terms of future funding beyond the potential generation of income arising from documentary checks.
“There is no additional financial support in place beyond March 2022.”
Agreeing to set aside £100,000 from the authority’s own reserves for the time being, members also approved the sending of a letter to Welsh Government ministers seeking assurance on future financial support to offset the initial and ongoing costs of setting up the PHA.
“We have no idea how this will be funded after March 2022 and neither do we know how much traffic will travel through Holyhead Port,” said Cllr Robin Williams.
“There’s mention of income being generated as a result of the checks, but this could end up being a major burden on the island’s ratepayers.
“Every authority doesn’t face having to set up something like this, only the ones with a sea or airport.”
Cllr Meirion Jones added: “It’s nothing less than a disgrace that this financial pressure is being placed on us, and those responsibilities, without the promise of extra cash to help.”
In response a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Following the UK’s departure from the EU, new infrastructure and processes are required in ports such as Holyhead.
“We have provided funding this year for Isle of Anglesey County Council to develop the arrangements for the required inspections. In the meantime we continue to press the UK Government for the funding to set up the Border Control Posts.
“In the longer term these inspections will be paid for through charges, and should not be an additional cost for Isle of Anglesey County Council.
“We understand that setting up these arrangements is difficult, and we continue to work closely with the local authority.”