Drakeford has bilateral meeting with Irish Foreign Minister amid Holyhead port fears

Simon Carbery Coveney, Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ireland. Picture by EU2017EE Estonian Presidency. (CC BY 2.0) Mark Drakeford. Picture by CPMR – Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Mark Drakeford has held a bilateral meeting with the Irish Foreign Minister amid reports that Brexit is damaging the port of Holyhead.

The First Minister discussed the port with Simon Coveney, who has said they’re looking at ways to support traders because of the implications of the trade agreement between the UK and the EU.

The deal signed by Boris Johnson’s Tory government means firms going through the Welsh port have to deal with filling in forms and exporters going through it to transport goods into Ireland are bracing themselves for tailbacks caused by the new regime.

There have also been reports of exporters bypassing Holyhead altogether by taking goods from the continent straight to Rosslare Harbour so they can avoid dealing with the layer of new bureaucracy.

It has seen a six-fold increase in business thanks to Brexit, and last week Rosslare received a new vessel from the ferry operator Stena which had been reassigned from the Belfast-Birkenhead route.

According to Mr Coveney the Irish Government is “deepening” its relationship with Wales and is developing a “distinct” programme of cooperation because the connections that had been developed through shared EU membership have been lost.

A spokesperson for the Irish Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs said: “Minister Coveney had very positive and constructive virtual meeting with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford.

“They discussed a wide range of issues, including on the application of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, engagements and supports for traders and the continuing importance of Holyhead and Welsh ports.

“They also discussed the possibilities for deepening cooperation between Ireland and Wales in the months and years ahead.”

‘New approaches’ 

Mr Coveney recently told the Dáil: “We are looking at new approaches. As we lose the regular engagements and connections built through our shared EU membership, we are deepening our relationship with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales with distinct programmes of co-operation with each.”

A spokesperson for the First Minister said: “The First Minister met Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney. [It was] an opportunity to discuss ongoing bilateral co-operation.

“We continue to speak directly to Irish govt both at ministerial and official level.”

Mark Drakeford has also told the EU President that the Welsh Government will retain a strong presence in its Brussels Office.

In a letter Ursula Von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, the First Minister set out his “vision” for “constructive engagement” despite Brexit.

He said: “We intend to deepen and build on our established partnerships with Member States, in particular, our close ties to our near neighbours in Ireland.

“We would also like to retain, as far as is possible given the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, our excellent relationships with the EU institutions.”

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