Wales’ ports may not have the infrastructure in place to deal with new post-Brexit rules the first minister warned today. 

Mark Drakeford was speaking at the 35th British-Irish Council Summit which took place in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, attended by Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s FM. Michael Gove was also in attendance representing the UK Government.

The British-Irish Council sees the heads of government and ministers from Ireland, the UK as well as the devolved and crown dependency governments, meet regularly to discuss common issues.

Checks on animal products between the UK and the EU will need to be carried out from 1 January 2022 onwards, but Mr Drakeford said that the situation was very challenging as there were difficulties finding the necessary sites to cover Fishguard and Pembroke Dock, as well as finding staff for Holyhead.

Drakeford, speaking remotely from Cardiff said: “There is progress at Holyhead, particularly, where sites have been identified and the beginning of the necessary infrastructure.

"The challenges don’t just include infrastructure, however. There are challenges as well of the skilled staff. Particularly veterinary staff who will be needed at those locations.

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"In the southwest of Wales we are close to now identifying a single location where the necessary checks will be able to be carried out for both Fishguard and for Pembroke Dock. That is a slower timetable than we have been able to achieve in Holyhead."

He added a warning that meeting the January deadline would be difficult: “I think having everything in place by January of next year is very challenging indeed. But we are not unique in that, because the challenges are faced by other ports in the United Kingdom.”

Michael Gove, said: “We’re working well collaboratively in order to make sure that infrastructure will be there. We have shown flexibility over timing and resourcing I am confident that we will be in a strong position.”

There was light-hearted moment at the post-meeting press conference when Northern Ireland first minister, Arlene Foster broke into song.

This will be Mrs Foster’s last British-Irish Council meeting as she steps down from her role as first minister after an internal party coup forced her out as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party.

She sang lines from Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life, singing: “That’s Life. That’s what all the people say. You’re riding high in April, shot down in May.”

She added: “I think it’s a good way to end my political career at the British Irish Council meeting in Fermanagh because it has absolutely encapsulated the totality of relationships and I am pleased everyone is here.”

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