Welsh Secretary claims Brexit voters weren’t ‘naive’ about ‘issues’ at ports
The Welsh Secretary has claimed that Brexit voters were not “naive” about the “issues” leaving the EU would create at ports in Wales.
Simon Hart acknowledged there have been “challenges” at Welsh ports “as a result of Brexit” but added that he believes “people voted in the certain knowledge that this was going to be quite a significant transition period”.
The Conservative MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire was being quizzed by Iain Dale on Cross Question on the LBC radio station about the impact of Brexit on the shortage of HGV drivers.
The crisis led to food shortages in supermarkets, and restaurants, and to people panic buying fuel at petrol stations.
But contrary to some experts, Hart argued that the shortage in HGV drivers didn’t have anything to do with leaving the European Union.
However, he did admit that some of the issues with importing and exporting goods through Welsh ports were as a result of Brexit, saying that these were “predicted”.
Because of these difficulties Wales is being increasingly bypassed as a trade route with Irish-French sea connections reaching 44 with a new terminal in the ferry port of Dunkirk.
Opening the terminal at the French port is part of a post Brexit move to avoid the UK land bridge through Holyhead.
Ireland-France sea routes have risen from 12 before the UK left the European Union, to 44 now as exporters increasingly side step the UK since 1 January when Brexit took effect.
The UK land bridge through Holyhead is now associated with delays and customs formalities and the importance of Dunkirk has become the latest outworking of Brexit and reflects the growing need for direct sea routes from Ireland to the continent.
Iain Dale asked: “Can you bring yourself to admit that a proportion, however small, a proportion of the problem is due to Brexit?”
Simon Hart replied: “No as far as HGV is concerned, no. Because I think that is wrong.
“However, what I would say if it reassures you a little bit, is that of course there have been, as were predicted some consequences of Brexit.”
He continued: “For example some of the Import-Export infrastructure issues in Wales. In Wales we’ve got Holyhead Port, Fishguard, Pembroke. These have had their challenges as a result of Brexit
“Not only did we know that would be the case, but I think people voted in the certain knowledge that this was going to be quite a significant transition period, compounded by Covid, which people didn’t know at the time.
“And so I don’t think people were in any sense naïve about that.”
Iain Dale then asked: “Just finally, why won’t a Cabinet minister actually say the truth?
“The truth is that a lot of these problems are caused by the failure of the road haulage industry to plan for this not just years, but decades.
“They’ve known that they’ve had an aging demographic, they’ve known that this is going to happen just as in other countries it’s happened
“Why haven’t they planned for it? Why haven’t they increased wages to attract more people, more younger people into the sector?”
Simon Hart said: “I think you know, out government, this government, my party have always I hope have been reasonably honest about the fact we are, we try to not interfere particularly in the running of the private sector.
“We try to always step out of the way, create the circumstances in which businesses can flourish. It’s one of the Conservatives’ great sort of battle cries. “
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