Earlier this week on Tuesday Afternoon there was a debate that took place in the House of Commons on the subject of Northern Ireland Protocol: Disruption to Trade. The Minister who responded was Michael Gove and the MPs present covered a wide range of elements of what many of us know is a deeply concerning element of our departure from the EU. In such debates the challenge is to find examples that demonstrate the problems without focusing too much on the phrases that appear in the mainstream media when they focus on Gove. One of the items came from the Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams who made a very simple statement and sadly it appears as if the Government are not as concerned about Wales as they are about some other matters.
To be fair although I have travelled from London to Northwest England on many occasions I have never travelled from London to Holyhead. However as a young person my family had many holidays in Anglesey and so I am very familiar with the location and what it was like in the years before and just after our nations transfer to what is now called the EU. However to go to Anglesey from Merseyside is much more common than I suspect to travel from London to the island for most people. The journey from London to Holyhead is 280 miles and it takes around five and a half hours by road. The train journey is a bit more variant as it can be as quick as three and a half hours or as long as eight and a half hours depending on when people need to travel. Clearly it would be helpful for the Government to pay some attention to this part of the UK and the response from Michael Gove indicates that the Government are currently not very familiar with it.
HW: Ferry traffic between Dublin and north Wales has diminished markedly as exporters apparently opt for alternative routes. Can the Minister tell me how many Northern Ireland exporters are now choosing direct ferry services from the Republic to the EU rather than using the UK land bridge? Is he aware of any Government assessment of the economic impact of this new routing on the port of Holyhead and on the wider economy of north-west Wales?
MG: The hon. Gentleman is right. There is new route from the Republic of Ireland to France, but there is no evidence yet that it has taken anything but a small fraction of the trade that goes through the land bridge. I will be talking to colleagues in the Welsh Government later this afternoon about everything we can do to make sure that Holyhead flourishes in the future.
No doubt the loss of trade between Holyhead and Dublin will have a very significant impact on the whole of Anglesey and indeed further afield in terms of jobs and commerce. It was clear based on these first few words expressed by an Irish MP called Clair Hanna who represents the SDLP that the departure is raising a concern for the Irish as well, although she is not focusing on Holyhead or indeed any of the other specific locations.
CH: The SDLP certainly did not wish for Brexit or its consequences, but in the interests of consumers and businesses we are working very hard to ensure that the protocol operates successfully. People here find it very difficult to listen to those Members who campaigned for Brexit and blocked every single alternative, and who explicitly said they do not care what the circumstances are so long as we are out of the EU.
That is a very good and short response to the much bigger issue that is facing Ireland and it is clear from the words from Hywel Williams that our departure, as things stand are having a very damaging impact on Wales. We know that Scotland is also badly impacted. Let us hope in due course that our Government will resolve some of these issues in their actions and in their arrangements with the EU or other trade deals. Many of the people who are passionate about our need to leave the EU are equally unhappy for Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales to want to be separated from what is currently called the United Kingdom. However it is very clear that the current situation is damaging the prospect of the UK remaining in one piece.