The Freight Transport Association (FTA) is providing its expertise to the Welsh government, as the nation prepares itself for business life after Brexit.
FTA is the only transport-focused organisation on a high-level post-Brexit working group, assembled by the Welsh Economy and Transport Secretary, Ken Skates. Other businesses leaders involved have been drawn from the Council for Economic Development, as well as from the Welsh TUC and Wales Co-op. Meetings of the EU Exit Working Group are underway, although work is in its initial stages.
National and Regional Policy Manager for FTA, Chris Yarsley, says the Welsh government’s desire to prioritise logistics is heartening:
FTA has been working extremely hard to raise the profile of trade and logistics as the Brexit negotiations progress. It’s good to see the Welsh administration taking this seriously and doing what it can to ensure the views of Welsh transport businesses are heard both during the negotiations and throughout the complex planning process that will follow.
After Brexit, the Welsh coastline will become a border between the EU and the UK. As the UK government wrestles with the practicalities of maintaining frictionless trade between the Republic of Ireland and the UK, it remains unclear how northern ports such as Holyhead and Mostyn will be affected. However, it is likely they will need to install the systems and infrastructure needed to allow them to operate as external EU border crossings. This will require both financial investment and additional space for customs checks and the processing of paperwork to take place. Chris Yarsley says the adjustments will offer both challenges and opportunities:
The likely changes after Brexit will give north Wales ports the opportunity to showcase their role in the supply chain and potential to grow, but this will require support and investment. FTA wants to see financial support from the private sector, along with local and national government. It’s important to invest not only in the ports themselves, but in the roads and other infrastructure that surround them.
The Welsh government, and its working groups, do not have a formal role in the Brexit negotiations. However, they can give recommendations to the UK government on policy areas in which they have key competencies. Mr Yarsley says it’s vital the Welsh government promotes the needs of the North Wales ports, because without enough investment there is a risk freight will divert directly to into mainland Europe.
Without adequate planning, there is a real danger that freight traffic will start to avoid the UK-EU land bridge and simply reroute from the Irish Republic into other EU ports, which may suddenly become financially viable. In a worst-case scenario, it could mean the end of some port operations and that would be a significant blow to companies in Wales and across the UK, pushing up the cost of sourcing products and passing higher prices on to consumers. FTA it doing everything it can to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Freight Transport Association