WALES and Ireland must work together to ensure trade between the two nations continues unhindered once the UK leaves the European Union, first minister Carwyn Jones has said.

Mr Jones is travelling to Dublin today, Monday, to meet his Irish counterpart, taoiseach Leo Varadkar, to discuss the challenges posed by Brexit.

Figures show 80 per cent of goods carried between the Republic of Ireland and Europe in lorries registered in Ireland pass through Welsh ports, supporting around 11,000 jobs in Wales. In 2016 524,000 lorries passed through major Welsh ports to and from the Irish Republic.

Speaking ahead of the meeting the first minister said: "Changes to customs rules that add cost, time and regulation at Welsh ports would greatly reduce their efficiency and might encourage goods to be diverted away from the sea routes between Wales and Ireland.

"This would be hugely damaging to our economy.

"The Welsh Government is fully committed to playing its part in supporting the Good Friday Agreement, but I cannot support any outcome which would divert traffic away from Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke Dock in favour of other parts of the UK."

He added there must be "a level playing field between Britain and Ireland".

"I don’t want to see a hard border on the island of Ireland but neither do I want to see customs posts at Welsh ports," he said.

"That is why the best option is for the whole UK to have continued participation in the single market and membership of a customs union.

"This removes this problem entirely.

"It is also in the best interests of the Welsh and the Irish economies and, indeed, the economies of the whole of the UK. And, as we have been clear, leaving the EU must not affect the arrangements for the common travel area."

There are more than 50 Irish-owned companies in Wales, employing 2,500 people. And Welsh exports to Ireland were worth £902 million in 2016.

While in Dublin, the first minister will also attend a round table meeting on infrastructure and Brexit chaired by the British Irish Chamber of Commerce as well as visit Irish Ferries and meet with British ambassador Robin Barnet.