PLAID CYMRU Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Simon Thomas AM, has challenged Liam Fox MP, the Secretary of State for International Trade, who appears to be favouring a settlement based on World Trade Organisation (WTO) trading arrangements to come up with a plan to protect the Welsh rural economy post-Brexit.
Simon Thomas warned that negotiating trade deals with the EU and the rest of the WTO will be a long-winded and drawn-out process and almost impossible to do without affecting the sector in Wales.
Adhering to WTO commitments post-Brexit will create difficulties in the case of imports and exports under tariff rate quotas. WTO rules on non-discrimination imply that it may not be easy to maintain the market access granted under the EU’s Regional Trade Agreements without full-fledged negotiations to agree parallel agreements with the 50 or so countries that have signed free trade agreements with the EU.
In practice, the WTO option could means an average tariff of around 14% of agricultural imports from non-EU countries, with higher rates on individual items. Dairy exports could attract a 36% tariff, and beef exports could be between 58 % and 70%. Relying on World Trade Organisation rules, the extra cost of exporting British beef could be £240 million a year, with an extra £90 million added to the cost of exporting lamb.
Furthermore, the time pressure on the UK to secure agreements will leave it in a relatively weak bargaining position vis-à-vis its trade partners implying that it may have to yield more concessions than might otherwise be the case in order to secure these agreements.
Simon Thomas AM said: “The lack of contingency planning and empty promises made by Brexiteers during the referendum campaign will undoubtedly put the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people in Wales who work in or depend on the agriculture and food sector at risk.
“The EU accounts for over 90% of Welsh agricultural exports, with Welsh food and farming delivering £5.8 billion to our economy every year.
“It is a scandal that no Plan B was formulated by the UK Government ahead of the EU Referendum. It just goes to show how out of touch the UK Government and its Ministers are with the electorate.
“Even if we were to receive the full compensation of CAP and structural funds, which seems a highly unlikely prospect given the Prime Minister’s reluctance to commit to any funding once the UK leaves the EU, being outside the Single Market will have a devastating effect on the Welsh economy.
“It is about time the UK Government outlined how it is going to approach the labyrinth of its preferred WTO option so as not to cause any irreparable damage to the Welsh economy.
“People in rural areas whose livelihoods depend on agricultural trade in Wales deserve to know what’s ahead of them. As I have said all along, uncertainty is economically toxic.
“If Brexit goes ahead, and regrettably we have to leave the EU, then the UK should aim at being in the EEA/EFTA. If that is blocked by Norway (a possibility which Brexit ignored prior to the referendum) then the UK should negotiate a parallel treaty to that secured by Norway, but making specific provision for Welsh farming products to gain tariff-free access to EU markets.”
Extension to EU Withdrawal Period must be agreed to safeguard economy
An extension to the EU Withdrawal period must be agreed, if the UK Government and European Union fail to reach an agreement regarding close post-Withdrawal Period trading arrangements in the coming weeks.
That was the consensus reached by Council delegates of the Farmers’ Union of Wales at a special virtual meeting on Thursday 25 June.
“Given around two thirds of identifiable Welsh exports go to European Union (EU) Member States and that Welsh agriculture is particularly dependent on such exports for its economic viability, failure to enter a close trading agreement with the EU after the current EU Withdrawal Period would be catastrophic for Wales and its farmers,” said FUW President Glyn Roberts.
As such, the Union believes that the UK Government and EU should agree an extension to the Withdrawal Period beyond the current 31st December 2020 end date, allowing more time for further negotiations.
“We have previously called for such extensions, at times when it looked like we were going to go over the cliff-edge and I’m glad that the Council of this Union has given their full support to such a resolution once again,” said Glyn Roberts.
The FUW has long argued and highlighted that the damage from reverting to basic WTO rules, which would be the case in a no-deal scenario, would be a disaster.
“A recent study by ‘UK In a Changing Europe’ (UKinace) suggests that, compared to the status quo, reverting to basic WTO terms would lower GDP by 8.1 percent over 10 years.
“This would be in addition to the impact of Covid-19, which has caused the UK economy to shrink by a quarter. I therefore hope the UK Government heed the advice and agree an extension, should they fail to reach an agreement with the EU,” added Glyn Roberts.
The Prince’s Foundation’s 7 for 70 project in Ceredigion gathers speed
Representatives of a charity behind a new centre to celebrate Welsh heritage, craft and culture have been encouraged by the progress made at the sacred site in Ceredigion.
The conversion of The Beudy ‒ pronounced “bay-dee”, meaning a cowshed ‒ at Strata Florida will mark the completion of the first phase of a project to restore the farmhouse and farm buildings owned by the Strata Florida Trust and supported by The Prince’s Foundation. The completed conversion will be officially opened later this year.
The wider project at Strata Florida is one of seven across the UK undertaken by The Prince’s Foundation to coincide with The Prince’s 70th birthday in 2018 in a campaign known as 7 for 70. Spearheaded by communities and supported by The Prince’s Foundation, the seven projects focus on landmark buildings and sites, whether neglected, in need of a new use, or requiring construction.
Mark Webb, fundraising and development manager for The Prince’s Foundation, visited Strata Florida, 16 miles south-east of Aberystwyth, alongside Peter Mojsa, representing the grant-giving charity Allchurches Trust, and was heartened by the impressive conversion work completed so far.
He said: “We share a vision with the Ceredigion community whereby Strata Florida regains its place as a foremost cultural heritage site in Wales, and the progress being made in the conversion of The Beudy is really encouraging.
“We hope to generate a renewed awareness of the significance of the site and establish it as a symbol of celebration of Welsh heritage, language and culture. Strata Florida Trust is aiming to create opportunities for a wide range of residential educational activities associated with the legacy of the site, its buildings, landscape and rural context.”
The Strata Florida Archaeology Field School is being run in partnership with Breaking Ground Heritage, an organisation that specialises in promoting wellbeing and rehabilitation through heritage-based activities, specifically to individuals with severe physical and psychological challenges. The school forms part of a three-year pilot project that has received £177,400 in grant funding from Allchurches Trust and is designed to encourage people to consider and pursue careers in archaeology.
Kim Hitch, director of projects for The Prince’s Foundation, said: “The Prince’s Foundation is proud of its contribution in preserving traditional skills, arts, and crafts, through its education and training programmes. In the same way that much of the training we offer helps to fill skills gaps and address the issue of shrinking workforces in certain industries, we hope that by supporting Strata Florida Trust run this archaeological field school, we can help address the dearth of new talent emerging in archaeology in the UK.”
Paul Playford, grants officer for Allchurches Trust, said: “We’re proud to support this exceptionally exciting project that is helping to halt the decline in practical archaeological opportunities and skills in the UK, breathing new life into this fascinating profession as well as enriching the local economy and protecting an important cultural site in Wales for future generations.
“We’re very much looking forward to seeing what treasures will be unearthed as the trenches open for a second summer and students and visitors discover the secrets of this ecclesiastical heritage gem, benefiting from the rich knowledge of the experts on-site and hopefully inspiring a love for archaeology and history that will last a lifetime.”
The Prince’s Foundation launched its 7 for 70 initiative to identify and undertake seven high-impact community regeneration projects throughout the United Kingdom. Drawing on more than 20 years of experience of heritage-led regeneration, project management, community engagement and architectural design, the charity, based at Dumfries House in Ayrshire, is working in partnership with local communities to support them in regeneration projects. The work also builds upon the successful community outreach work undertaken at Dumfries House – the restoration of nearby New Cumnock Town Hall in 2016 and the rebuilding of New Cumnock’s outdoor swimming pool in 2017. Both projects were completed in partnership with the local community in response to an appeal for assistance in saving these two much-loved local assets.
Successful 7 for 70 projects include The Duke of Rothesay Highland Games Pavilion, a Braemar-based showcase of Scotland’s rich history of traditional highland sports, and a summerhouse at the centre of a renovated walled garden at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland. While projects are owned and operated by the local community, The Prince’s Foundation offers its fundraising, development and communications expertise to help identify funding options and deliver the capital phase. The Prince’s Foundation lends its wealth of expertise and knowledge in the heritage and built environment sectors, and in doing so to add the necessary value to ensure the projects’ successful completion.
The chief objective of The Prince’s Foundation is to create sustainable communities. The charity aims to achieve this by developing and managing places to visit, running a diverse programme of education and training for all ages with particular focus on traditional and heritage skills, and offering employment, most notably at its headquarters at Dumfries House in Ayrshire and in London. Its activity spans the world, with education programmes and placemaking initiatives in Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America.
Lampeter Green Infrastructure projects funding plans to be submitted after Cabinet approval
The council will submit funding applications for two green infrastructure projects in Lampeter after the Cabinet approved the submission of the plans on 28 January 2020. The plans will be submitted to the Welsh Government.
It comes after Welsh Government recently announced the availability of a £5m ‘Green Infrastructure Fund’ for all Local Authorities in Wales to apply to.
Green Infrastructure is a design principle where greenery and vegetation is introduced into built up areas to increase urban greening and help urban cooling, reducing water run-off and improving residents well-being.
One of the proposed projects is the ‘Lampeter Green Corridor’ which involves the improvement of an all access path linking the North and the South of town through the University. The other proposed plan is the ‘Market Street Pedestrian Prioritisation’ which would see the area enhanced with a sustainable drainage system, tree planting, seating and spaces for market stalls and pop up stands.
Rhodri Evans is the Cabinet member responsible for Economy and Regeneration. He said, “This investment in Lampeter demonstrates how Green Infrastructure investments can both help our environment and be extremely beneficial for the town. As well as improving pedestrian accessibility, it has the potential of bringing more business in to the town with market and pop up stalls.
This decision supports the council’s corporate priorities of Promoting Environmental & Community Resilience and Boosting the Economy.
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