Car­wyn warn­ing over cost of no-deal Brexit

Western Mail - - FRONT PAGE - AN­DREW WOODCOCK & EMMA BOWDEN news­desk@waleson­

ANO-DEAL Brexit could be hugely ex­pen­sive to Wales be­cause of po­ten­tial dis­rup­tion to sea links with Ire­land, Welsh First Min­is­ter Car­wyn Jones has warned. And Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar warned that Ir­ish freight head­ing for the Con­ti­nent may have to switch to sea routes to French, Dutch and Bel­gian ports rather than tak­ing the quicker “land-bridge” via Bri­tain to Calais. The im­pact of Brexit on trade was high on the agenda at the Bri­tish-Ir­ish Coun­cil sum­mit on the Isle of Man, with the UK’s de facto deputy prime min­is­ter David Lid­ing­ton not­ing that East-West com­merce across the Ir­ish Sea was eco­nom­i­cally far more im­por­tant than the more

high-pro­file North-South move­ments be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the Repub­lic.

Mr Jones said that 70% of trade be­tween Great Bri­tain and Ire­land passed through Welsh ports like Holy­head.

“The last thing I would like to see is a hard bor­der be­tween Ire­land and Wales,” he said at a press con­fer­ence at the con­clu­sion of the sum­mit.

“If there is ex­tra bu­reau­cracy, ex­tra checks at Welsh ports, that will have an ef­fect on the ports them­selves and the road in­fra­struc­ture lead­ing into the ports, both of which are de­volved.

“We run the ports and the roads. “There is a dan­ger, if we have a hard Brexit with no deal, that we end up hav­ing to pay a huge amount of money on the port and on the roads in or­der to ac­com­mo­date the traf­fic that would be de­layed there as a re­sult of an im­po­si­tion of ex­tra con­trols.”

Mr Varad­kar said that his ob­jec­tive on trade was to “avoid the emer­gence of any new bor­ders”.

A “huge” amount of Ire­land’s trade with con­ti­nen­tal Europe passes through Welsh ports and across Bri­tain on its way to Calais, while much of North­ern Ire­land’s trade with the Bri­tish main­land goes via Dublin port, he said.

Al­ter­na­tive routes ex­isted by boat to Rot­ter­dam, An­twerp and French ports but were “much slower”, he said.

“My ob­jec­tive when it comes to trade is to do every­thing we can to avoid the emer­gence of any new bor­ders among any of us,” said Mr Varad­kar.

“That’s what the Euro­pean Union gave us, bor­der-free trade be­tween Bri­tain and Ire­land and all the EU.

“The fact that Brexit is hap­pen­ing makes that dif­fi­cult to repli­cate, but our ob­jec­tive as an Ir­ish Govern­ment is to do that to the ex­tent that we can, in or­der to al­low peo­ple to travel freely as they have done for so long now, but also to al­low trade to func­tion as it does now.”

Mr Lid­ing­ton said that while trade

across the Ir­ish bor­der had “mas­sive po­lit­i­cal and sym­bolic sig­nif­i­cance”, the routes over the Ir­ish Sea were more eco­nom­i­cally im­por­tant.

“It is in the in­ter­ests of ev­ery­body within th­ese is­lands that we get both an agree­ment on the with­drawal deal which gives the cer­tainty of the im­ple­men­ta­tion pe­riod, and at the same time a dec­la­ra­tion about a fu­ture part­ner­ship where the EU27 and the UK ac­cept and work to­wards the ob­jec­tive of fric­tion­less trade be­tween our re­spec­tive ju­ris­dic­tions,” he said.

“That is the thing that will work best for busi­nesses, liv­ing stan­dards, pros­per­ity in ev­ery part of the is­land of Ire­land, ev­ery part of the United King­dom and the Crown Depen­den­cies as well.”

Mr Jones said that au­to­mo­tive busi­ness Scha­ef­fler had made clear that un­cer­tainty due to Brexit was a key fac­tor in its de­ci­sion to close a plant in Llanelli with the loss of 220 jobs.

“We all un­der­stand that busi­ness needs cer­tainty more than any­thing else and I hope over the next few weeks we will get that cer­tainty, so busi­nesses feel they can see the fu­ture,” he said.

“At the mo­ment, it is very dif­fi­cult for them. Since the sum­mer, they have be­come con­cerned that there might be a no deal and as a re­sult of that they have started tak­ing de­ci­sions that are not good de­ci­sions as far as we are con­cerned. Scha­ef­fler is an ex­am­ple of that.”

But Mr Lid­ing­ton played down the sig­nif­i­cance of Brexit to Scha­ef­fler’s de­ci­sion: “Dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies at dif­fer­ent times find that mar­ket con­di­tions are af­fect­ing them.

“A num­ber of au­to­mo­tive com­pa­nies at the mo­ment are find­ing that sales and de­mand in the mar­ket is not what they had ex­pected it to be.”

He added: “In the last year, we were still at­tract­ing more third­coun­try in­ward in­vest­ment in the UK than any other mem­ber state of the EU.”

> First Min­is­ter Car­wyn Jones

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