Carwyn Jones to fight for Welsh ports in Ireland visit
Wales and the Irish Republic must work together to overcome trade challenges when the UK leaves the European Union, the first minister has said.
Carwyn Jones said a “hard maritime border” between Wales and Ireland would be a “real threat” to both economies.
Wales exported £955m worth of goods to the Irish Republic in the 12 months to June 2017 and Irish businesses support about 11,000 jobs in Wales.
Mr Jones will meet Irish premier Leo Varadkar in Belfast on Monday.
The first minister said ports in Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke Dock make a “huge contribution” to the Welsh economy – and opposes any Brexit deal which would “divert traffic away” from Welsh ports.
“I don’t want to see a hard border on the island of Ireland but neither do I want to see customs posts at Welsh ports,” he said.
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“I look forward to meeting with the Taoiseach to discuss these issues, and the importance of maintaining the very close and diverse links between Wales and Ireland as the UK prepares to leave the EU.”
The UK Government has said the UK will leave both the European Union’s single market and customs union in March 2019.
The customs union reduces administrative and financial trade barriers between its member states, and there is concern leaving it would result in goods being diverted away from sea routes between Wales and Ireland.
Mr Jones will also meet business leaders on his trip to Dublin as he is keen to maintain links with the Republic of Ireland because it is the fourth highest country in terms of exports.
He says the best option is for the whole UK to have continued participation in the single market and membership of a customs union.
“As we have been clear, leaving the EU must not affect the arrangements for the Common Travel Area [open borders area between the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands],” Mr Jones said.
In reaching a deal with the EU in December on the first phase of the Brexit negotiations, the UK Government agreed there would not be a “hard border” between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.
It also said there will be “no new regulatory barriers” between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.