Welsh products have 1,400-mile three-state detour following Brexit
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
The UK Government says it’s working to avoid further “rigmarole” and Irish Sea red tape after it was revealed that some Welsh-bound products are having to be shipped via a 1,400-mile three-state detour following Brexit.
The plight of one Caernarfon business owner was raised in the Commons on Wednesday after facing eye watering hikes in the cost of deliveries due to transport companies avoiding Holyead Port.
While the 170 mile journey between Neil Alcock’s Seiont Nurseries and his supplier in Kilkenny used to take just 12 hours via Holyhead, such deliveries now take up to four days and necessitate travel via France, Belgium, Holland and England due to hauliers being unwilling to risk being held up at Holyhead or Dublin due to paperwork errors.
Responding to a question from Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams in Parliament, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis MP said: “I would say that we’re working to ensure he doesn’t have to go through that kind of rigmarole and can continue to trade in a way that his business, for the benefit of his employees and the customers he’s serving, can continue to do so.”
Similar concerns over the post-Brexit slump were raised during a full meeting of Anglesey Council on Tuesday, which saw one Holyhead member seek assurance that the authority was doing all it could to ramp up travel via the port, which remains one of the island’s major employers.
Cllr Bob Llewelyn Jones said: “The freight hauliers do not want to accept mixed loads as any single item on that load not having the paperwork would stop the whole load.
“Why is the paperwork so difficult on the Holyhead to Dublin route that the Irish exporter prefers to send the freight on such a long journey?
“The Port of Holyhead has been hit by the perfect economic storm, brought about by Brexit. As of the last week of February, freight was down 49% while between Ireland to France was up by 102%.
“No other port in Europe would put up with this daylight robbery brought about by EU red tape, there’s no need for it. Some spot checks should be all that are needed.”
He added: “We have to be seen to be doing all we can to support the two ferry operators and their workforce.
“This is a very serious situation and make no mistake the other port operators in the UK and France are doing all they can to take our traffic through their port and their local authorities will be doing all they can to encourage them.”
The leader, Cllr Llinos Medi, stressed that the authority was in talks with politicians across the various divides and governments as well as counterparts in the Irish Government, tackling the issue from “every possible angle to keep Holyhead Port high on the agenda.”
Government agency Defra said: “We are phasing in new checks to give businesses time to adjust and are providing extensive advice and support.”
Meanwhile, MP Virginia Crosbie has welcomed a new UK-wide transport infrastructure review which highlighted some locally relevant schemes including potential improvements to the A55 as well as a new ferry route between Holyhead and Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland.
Peter Hendy’s interim report, the “Union Connectivity Review” has identified the A55 ‘as being of interest’ as a vital freight route, but also the need for better links for lorries and passengers.
Also noted is the possibility of a new ferry link from Warrenpoint to Holyhead.
Crosbie added, “The inclusion of Ynys Môn in this review is brilliant news and it puts the need we have for better transport infrastructure in ministers’ minds ahead of the full report this summer.
“Until then I won’t stop making the case for an improved A55, but it shows our island is part of the UK’s strategic thinking and will mean more opportunities going forward.”