Holyhead port ‘relaxed’ about Brexit, British-Irish assembly hears

Dublin Port bemoans vast expense on preparing for no-deal exit that might not happen

Holyhead port has shown "no sense of emergency" about Brexit, while Dublin Port bemoaned the huge expense preparing for a no-deal exit that might not happen, the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly heard.

The biannual gathering of Irish and UK parliamentarians heard details of a report from one of its committees on a visit to the two Irish Sea ports by a delegation from the assembly to assess preparations for Brexit.

The committee painted a contrasting picture on preparations being taken in Dublin and Holyhead.

Darren Millar, a Conservative member of the Welsh national assembly, said that Dublin Port officials expressed concern about the number of customs officials that still needed to be hired to deal with a potential no-deal Brexit.


"Our biggest concern was that there was huge effort and huge expense going into these things and they may not be required," he said on Tuesday, the second day of the assembly at Druids Glen in Co Wicklow.

He said that it was “ a matter of regret” that all the work was going ahead when there was so much uncertainty around the UK’s exit from the EU.

“Much of this investment, the expenditure may not have needed to have taken place depending on the outcome of Brexit,” he said.

Irish Ferries management raised concerns in a meeting about the different regulatory approaches that might arise after the UK leaves the EU and were particularly worried about new passenger checks post-Brexit.

Mr Millar told the assembly that the delegation travelled on to Holyhead on March 29th, the day the UK had been due to leave the EU, and found “a much more relaxed approach” from Stena, the port’s operator.

“It did not feel that there was any sense of emergency in Holyhead at all. It was a sort of attitude that we can take everything in our stride really, which was quite different to the Irish side,” he said.

30 seconds

The UK government had told the port that it was not planning to impose any additional checks on vehicles arriving from Ireland and would only have minimal checks that would add 30 seconds of processing time at peak.

The Welsh port was adopting a “suck-it-and-see approach” to dealing with post-Brexit life and were “reasonably confident that there were workarounds to prevent unnecessary delays,” he said.

The British Labour peer, Lord Alf Dubs, warned about the knock-on effect for Irish freight heading to and from mainland Europe at Dover where it can take up to 75 minutes to check containers from outside the EU.

This was “why Kent is liable to become a car park” after Brexit, he said. He warned that “stacking” traffic would be more complicated with port-a-loos being required along the motorway “so lorry drivers can have a pee.”

“It will take them years to reconfigure Dover Port to have a no-deal Brexit,” he said.

Mr Millar said that from the delegation’s discussion with ferry operators, it was clear that Dover was the “port of choice” for many Irish companies transporting goods to and from mainland Europe.

Lord Malcom Bruce, the British Liberal Democrat politician, warned that post-Brexit checks on food products would be “a major, major issue” in terms of cost and delays. Alternative routes on direct ferries to mainland Europe would mean “not going out of the EU” but would not be cheaper, he said.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times