The effects of Brexit still looming over the logistics sector leading to many concerns about the goods movement between the U.K and Ireland. Recently, the Welsh Government has asked the U.K and Irish governments to resolve the impact of Brexit on ports in Wales. The Government has notified about a five-point plan for the sake of logistics between Ireland and Wales. To support the people who make a living out of the ports in Pembrokeshire and Holyhead where more than eight hundred jobs are generated are now under jeopardy and hence the declaration for saving their means of income.
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As of now, the focus is to simplify and smoothen the border processes and to promote smooth movement of goods between Wales and Northern Ireland for reviving the lost confidence of traders in the UK land bridge which helps Irish exporters and importers connect with international markets. Being the fifth largest export market of Wales, Ireland accounts for around 11 per cent of total goods exported and imports constitute 1.3 per cent.
A Decline in Freight Transport in Major Ports
As per the data from the Department of Transport, the freight transport using the routes between Ireland and Wales has become considerably reduced as compared to earlier, before the Brexit transition period. Many companies preferred to choose direct routes between Ireland and the EU. Also, as opposed to last years’ data, the volume of transport at Holyhead port has lowered down by 50 per cent while in other docks it plummeted to 40 per cent.
Direct Services Look Promising
However, the freight transport which uses the direct services between the EU and Ireland has been improved by 242 per cent. Further, those which are found using the GB-NI routes increased by 5 per cent as against 2020, although all other routes in the UK have shown a thorough decline.
Finding a Way Out
Both the exports and imports from mainland Britain have fallen by 14 and 65 per cent respectively during January as per the data from Central Statistics Office, Ireland. We have read that the UK Government tried to downplay this precarious situation as “teething problems” while the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates opined that there existed “core issues” with the new processes and as a result crossing the border has become “more costly, time-consuming and higher risk.”
Before the end of the post-Brexit transition period, many freight companies may have relied on the UK land bridge to send goods fast between Ireland and the EU. Nevertheless, now UK being withdrawn from the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union, the new regulations take a toll on exporters as well as importers leading to increased checking at the border, additional costs which finally paved way for unprecedented delays.
This has resulted in abandoning the Welsh ports and resort to the routes despite the longer transit time and the costs. Mr. Skates in a press statement said that “Whilst this can be partially attributed to Covid-19 impacts, traders, hauliers and the ports have reported that it is now a more costly, time-consuming and higher risk to navigate the new processes required to cross the border.”
“These are not simply teething problems, but core issues with the new rules and processes that have been established since. Many of these factors are an inevitable consequence of the trade deal sought by the UK Government, over which the Welsh Government has little control.
However, we recognise the essential contribution that our ferry ports and services make to the economic prosperity of Wales and the wider UK, and cannot sit idly by whilst the livelihood of all those connected to the ports are placed under threat.
The recommendations to facilitate the feasibility of freight transport between Wales and Northern Ireland constitutes a revision of the UK’s Trader Support Service (TSS). Now it supports the transit from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland through Ireland only but does not back the journey backwards. The report states that if the transit in both directions gets implemented it would help the process, “more user friendly.”
Also, regaining confidence in the UK land bridge is important as the route is considered faster and cheaper with efficiency in cost while implementing trade between Ireland and the EU. Statistics show that exporters and importers from Ireland are back to using the UK land bridge but at a very slow pace making its impact seen on the revenue from ports. Due to this reason, the report also asks the UK and Irish Governments to develop and use a resource that directs traders on the requirements for using the land bridge and also on how to interact with each government’s system.
The report, while providing the Welsh Government’s other directives adds that “We will continue to make the case for further facilitation and support resources to be targeted towards Wales-Ireland logistics, in recognition of the critical role flows associated with Welsh ferry ports have in supporting the economies of Wales, Ireland and the UK. In the immediate term, Welsh Government will use this plan and the actions identified as the basis of further activity and direct engagement with the UK and Irish Governments.”