The Government’s latest surrender to the Brexit hardliners, ruling out any kind of customs union with the EU, will lead to even greater economic damage to Wales.
By ruling out any kind of customs union with the EU, they have swept yet more options off the table, leaving the UK Brexit negotiators with even less to work with as talks resume – and leaving our EU partners even more baffled.
If we are not in the Customs Union Welsh ports will suffer.
There cannot be a soft border between north and south in Ireland while putting in place a hard (maritime) border between the Republic of Ireland and Wales. If this was the case, Irish freight would seek to avoid using Welsh ports.
With over 70% of Irish cargo currently passing through Wales this is very worrying indeed as ports make a large contribution to the Welsh economy, supporting around 11,000 jobs and providing an economic hub and trade gateway with Europe and the rest of the world.
Even if we ignore the issue of the border in Northern Ireland, we would need significant infrastructure to carry out customs checks. Towns like Holyhead would suffer greatly, there is simply no space in or around the port for the kind of infrastructure that will be required for customs checks. Infrastructure needs in this context would mean new roads, new border check offices and new IT systems. It could mean additional staff, but the economic argument for this seems unlikely to be justified as this would only be to retain existing trade.
Many large exporters in Wales would face delays and additional costs. Tata Steel, for example, uses Welsh ports to export to the French and Spanish markets but they have manufacturing facilities on mainland Europe and could choose to relocate to be back inside the Customs Union and Single Market. The same can be said for Airbus which manufactures wings at its plant at Broughton for delivery to the company's assembly factory at Toulouse in southern France.
This is not taking back control, it is relinquishing control. That is why I believe there should be a public vote on the final deal.