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Businesses’ Brexit fears dismissed

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Airbus: Warned of risk of capital flight

THE RECENT conduct of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has led to fears that the future of the UK’s business relationships with Europe are of secondary interest to senior government ministers.

A strongly-worded statement from the CBI, warning policy makers to ‘focus on business priorities and put evidence above political ideology’ was greeted with Mr Johnson remarking ‘f**k business’.

Those remarks were preceded by the Foreign Secretary being recorded saying that the border with Ireland was a minor issue of little consequence in the context of Brexit.

The CBI subsequently suggested that it will ensure negotiators on both sides ‘are well equipped with the unequivocal economic facts’.

Whether the facts fit the Foreign Secretary’s preconceptions of what Brexit might mean for the UK’s businesses is open to question.

AIRBUS RAISES STAKES

A similar gap between reality and ideology was exposed by the warning from Airbus that – in order to continue to comply with the European regulatory framework – it might have to move its base of operations from Broughton in Clwyd, where it supports 6,500 directly employed jobs and businesses and the economy over a much wider area.

In the absence of a Brexit agreement, UK aerospace companies will not be covered by existing approvals. More than 10,000 original aircraft parts originate in the UK, the manufacture of which is covered by tight regulations requiring certification by the European Aviation Safety Agency. Should a single parts supplier not be certified, its parts cannot be installed and aircraft will not be delivered.

If a supply chain agreement is not reached with the EU, the consequences for the aviation industry selling into the EU trading bloc will be a disaster for the UK.

BUSINESSES TOLD TO BUTT OUT

However, the unwelcome intervention of facts in the Brexit narrative roused Health Secretary Jeremy (H)unt to tell the BBC’s Andrew Marr that talking about job losses risked undermining the government in its negotiations with the EU.

“It was completely inappropriate for businesses to be making these kinds of threats, for one simple reason. We are in a critical moment in the Brexit discussions. We need to get behind Theresa May to deliver the best possible Brexit, a clean Brexit.”

Mr Hunt’s comments were supported by leading Brexit enthusiast Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, who also suggested that businesses warning the government based on their own detailed knowledge of the regulatory regimes under which they work were somehow placing the UK Government’s negotiating position – which is as yet both unknown and possibly undetermined – at risk.

The key economic issue for businesses is ensuring the sort of continuity in trading arrangements which secures jobs and encourages investment. Large businesses need a significant amount of time to make decisions on the allocation of resources, particularly in the face of unpredictable trade policy by twitter approach of the US Government. Short of certainty, and faced with a capricious transatlantic trading partner which scraps trade agreements and treaties at short or no notice, businesses are understandably twitchy about their inability to plan and the absence of meaningful interaction with them by the UK Government’s crack Brexit team.

In a carefully-phrased statement to MPs, Business Secretary Greg Clark told MPs: “Any company and any industry that supports the livelihoods of so many working people in this country is entitled to be listened to with respect.

“The government has been clear that we are determined to secure a deal with the EU that meets the needs of our aerospace firms and the thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on them.”

IRISH TRADE KEY FOR WEST WALES

Meanwhile, businesses have struck back at the apparent indifference of the UK Government’s key Brexit ministers to the interests of businesses which stand to be affected directly should the UK reach no regulatory deal – or a poor regulatory deal – with the EU.

Business groups the CBI, Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Business, the Employers’ Federation, and the Institute of Directors are placing pressure on the government to reach agreement on trade, customs, and immigration.

Pembrokeshire’s MPs, Simon Hart in Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire and Stephen Crabb in Preseli Pembrokeshire, are in an intriguing position over the issue of Irish trade.

With major ferry ports in Pembroke Dock and Fishguard, both Conservatives have a dog in the race to ensure that trade with the Republic of Ireland is at least maintained at current levels.

100,000 lorries were carried to Ireland via ports in Pembrokeshire in 2015. Any disruption of that trade, by the introduction of customs and immigration checks for example, would significantly reduce the attractiveness of west Wales’ ports to businesses trading with Ireland. That is not, however, a one way street. The Irish Government is also keen to maintain access to the UK as an access point to mainland Europe.

While the ports are not in themselves major employers, the ‘ripple effect’ of any loss or reduction in through traffic and any subsequent job losses could be significant. And concerns have been magnified by Stena’s decision to scrap a significant investment plan in Fishguard.

When we asked to respond to the Foreign Secretary’s views on the Irish Border issue and the importance of trade with Ireland to Pembrokeshire, Simon Hart said: “I have spoken (very informally) to [Boris Johnson] to make that point, which he says he recognises. The border issue might be minor in the overall context of Brexit but it is nonetheless very important.”

Stephen Crabb told us: “I have said right from the start that the issues over trade between the UK and Ireland, including the question of the Northern Ireland border, are some of the most complex and important of the Brexit negotiations.

“For us in Pembrokeshire it is important because of our trade links with Rosslare and I have raised this matter with Ministers in Ireland, the Cabinet in Westminster. The commitment that the Prime Minister has given that there will be no additional trade barriers for East-West trade between the UK and Ireland is crucial and reflects the points that I and others have been putting to her.”

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Pupils at Ysgol Gyfun Aberaeron asked to self-isolate as COVID-19 case confirmed

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A NUMBER of pupils at Ysgol Gyfun Aberaeron have been asked to self-isolate for 10 days following the confirmation of a COVID-19 case at the school.

All confirmed contacts of the positive case must remain at home for 10 days to reduce the possible spread of the virus to family, friends and the wider community. The pupils will be taught remotely for this period. The parents of all these pupils have been contacted by the School.

The Council urges all parents to refer their children for a test if they develop any of the symptoms, which are:

  • a high temperature
  • a new continuous cough
  • a loss or change to sense of smell or taste.

Parents should also be aware of other symptoms early on, such as headaches, tiredness and general aches and pains usually associated with the flu.

Although the level of cases is low, coronavirus has not gone away. Please follow the guidelines:

  • Keep a 2m social distance from each other when out and about – indoors and outdoors;
  • Wash your hands regularly;
  • Wear a face mask in indoor public places, shops and on public transport.

You can apply for a test on https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-covid-19-test or by phoning 119.

No further details will be provided regarding this matter.

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Update for Multi-purpose Community Centres following First Minister announcement

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TODAY, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that multi-purpose community centres including community centres, village halls, church halls and other community facilities can reopen from 03 May. This decision has been brought forward from 17 May.

Welsh Government announced changes during today’s briefing, and the guidance for multi-purpose community venues is being updated to ensure compliance with developments in regulations, including greater emphasis on ventilation. Welsh Government continue to advise authorities that the regulations on social gathering will still prevent a number of activities from taking place at community venues, and only organised activities for up to 15 people will be permitted.

The panel strongly advise you to make every effort to carry out your activity digitally or make contact by phone. If not, consider whether it is possible to hold your activity outdoors, in-line with Welsh Government guidance. Holding your activity indoors should be considered as a last resort. If this is the only option and it’s essential that you meet then please keep the session brief and involve as few people as possible, with all necessary procedures and protocols in place.

Those responsible for community activities should remember to;

  • maintain a social distance of 2 meters.
  • wear a face covering in indoor public spaces.
  • regularly wash your hands for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer provided.   

A multi-agency panel has been set up to advise and support around the safe and proportionate reopening of facilities in-line with national guidance. The panel has been created under Ceredigion’s Public Services Board Sub Group; Understanding our Communities. Leading on the development of the group is Ceredigion Association of Voluntary Organisations (CAVO) and Ceredigion County Council in partnership with Heddlu Dyfed Powys Police and Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service. The panel includes representation from Health & Safety, Environmental Health and Community Safety.

The panel encourages anyone responsible for community facilities to seek advice to ensure that arrangements are safe and secure and that compliance is in-line with national guidance. Prior to re-opening any community facility those managing centres must ensure that they are ‘Covid-Free Zones’.

The panel will aim to host another briefing session on April 28 at 13:30 to support those in charge of community venues with the latest developments. If you would like to join the next briefing session, please register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cyfleusterau-cymunedol-ceredigion-community-facilities-information-session-tickets-152071456821?aff=ebdssbonlinesearch or get in touch via the contact details below.

The multi-agency panel will continue to support and advise Community Groups and Organisations, and questions or information requests can be submitted to the group which meets on a weekly basis via CAVO on gen@cavo.org.uk or by phone on 01570 423232.

Together, we can keep Ceredigion safe.

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First Minister to set out first steps out of lockdown

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT will lift the “stay at home” requirement in Wales from tomorrow, and replace it with “stay local”, as part of a careful, cautious and phased approach to relaxing coronavirus restrictions, First Minister Mark Drakeford will announce today (Friday, Mar 12).

From tomorrow (Saturday, Mar 13), four people from two households will be able to meet outdoors to socialise, including in gardens. In addition, outdoor sports facilities, including basketball courts, tennis courts and golf courses, can reopen, and indoor care home visits will restart, for single designated visitors.

From Monday, all primary pupils and those in qualifications years will return. Schools will have the flexibility to bring year 10 and 12 learners back and more learners will return to colleges.

There will also be flexibility for in-school check-ins for all other pupils. All learners will return after the Easter break.

Hairdressers and barbers will re-open for appointments from Monday.

From 22 March non-essential retail will start re-opening gradually as the restrictions are lifted on what can be sold in shops which are currently open. Garden centres will also be able to open. All shops, including all close contact services, will be able to open from 12 April – the same date as in England.

The First Minister will say: “We are taking a phased approach to unlocking each sector – starting with schools. We will make step-by-step changes each week to gradually restore freedoms. We will monitor each change we make, so we know what impact each change has had on Wales’ public health situation.”

The First Minister will also announce an additional £150m to support businesses affected by ongoing restrictions.

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