There should be no significant delay to the flow of goods through ports after Brexit if “we all do the right thing”, Michael Gove has said.
The Cabinet minister in charge of no-deal planning visited Holyhead Port in North Wales on Wednesday to meet with organisations working on the trade route to Northern Ireland, Ireland and the rest of the world.
Mr Gove told the PA news agency that predictions of a three-month “meltdown” at ports in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as revealed in the leaked Operation Yellowhammer documents, were “the absolute worst case”.
He said: “I’m confident that, if we all do the right thing, on October 31 we will be able to ensure that goods can flow in and out of ports like Holyhead without any significant delay.
“There are a number of scenarios, there is a worst case and we are trying very hard to reduce the risk of that worst case materialising.
“I think the steps that we’ve taken over the course of the last three weeks and more steps that we’ll be taking in the next few weeks and months will ensure that we reduce the risk even further.
“One of them is making sure that traders have all the information and the systems that they need in order to be able to export.”
Mr Gove was given a tour of the country’s second busiest port, which was being used by both freight vehicles and holiday-makers on their way to Dublin, and met with representatives who run organisations from there.
He also visited transportation company Gywnedd Shipping and met leaders of North Wales councils on Wednesday as Prime Minister Boris Johnson prepared to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
Mr Gove said he thought there was “every chance” a deal could be agreed.
He said: “We’re going to do everything we can to try to get a deal and Boris is seeing Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron in order to try to see if there’s movement on the European side, but so far we haven’t seen much movement from the EU and its leaders, so we have to plan prudently in case we don’t get a deal.”
Asked what he thought the chances of no-deal were, Mr Gove said: “Different people put a different statistical likelihood on it, my view is that there is a chance that it might happen, therefore we need to be ready for it.”
Mr Gove said “goodwill on all sides” was required to work on alternative arrangements to the Irish backstop.
He said: “There are a series of particular facilitations and easements that can be introduced alongside technology which can help ensure that we have as effective a flow of goods over the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland border as businesses will need.
“It all depends on the willingness of the EU, in particular the European Commission, to commit to making sure that some of the work that’s already being done is expedited.”