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.”
Young person celebrates kickstart job and overcomes several obstacles
22-YEAR-OLD Lee from rural Ceredigion found it challenging to secure permanent employment. Having no mode of transport as well as his diagnosis of autism and depression meant that Lee has experienced significant barriers with finding and maintaining employment. Communities For Work Plus (CFW+) provided Lee with the right tools and opportunities to find the right role for him. He now has a job at ASN Watson (Savers), with a more positive future ahead.
Lee was struggling financially with increasing debt and although he had been working in the past, the nature and environment of the work was not practical for Lee’s abilities; he was often misunderstood by employers.
After being referred to CFW+ from Job Centre Plus, Aberystwyth, Lee received support with job searches, applications, cover letters, cv writing, and interview skills. He’s now in paid employment, secured through the Kickstart Scheme. The UK Government Kickstart Scheme provides funding to employers to create jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit.
Lee said: “The project helped me a lot as I struggle to know where to start when it comes to finding jobs, but this definitely helped. Communities for Work+ has got you covered!”
Communities For Work Plus is a Welsh Government funded project, delivered by Ceredigion County Council which supports individuals in or at risk of poverty, aged 16 or over, across Ceredigion and throughout Wales. Participants may be experiencing in-work poverty, unemployment, living on minimum wage, or struggling to pay basic monthly outgoings on sporadic zero-hour contracts.
Misha Homayoun-Fekri, CFW+ Mentor said: “Lee has been a pleasure to support. He was always very responsive, and we worked together every step of the way. I am so pleased for Lee that he has found a job that he can be happy in.”
Since starting his new role, Lee has become a lot more independent, his mental health has improved, and has started to save money for the future.
Councillor Wyn Thomas, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, said: “One in 100 people are on the autism spectrum. A report released by the Office for National Statistics shows that only 21.7% of autistic people are in employment; meaning that businesses are missing out on the opportunity to benefit from the strengths that autistic people can bring to the workplace. So, it’s great to hear that Lee has found an autism-friendly employer through the support provided by CFW+ and I encourage more employers to be more inclusive to all abilities when considering employees.”
If you think the project may be able to help you or if you would like more information, contact the team on 01545 574193 or email TCC-EST@ceredigion.gov.uk.
Mid Wales distillery wins COVID 19 Resilience Award
THE TEAM at Ceredigion distillery, In the Welsh Wind, is celebrating after winning the COVID 19 Resilience Award at the inaugural Wales Food and Drink Awards.
The awards shortlisted businesses in a range of categories to reflect the diverse nature of what is a key sector in the Welsh economy and one that has a global reputation for excellence.
The COVID 19 Resilience Awards, sponsored by Cywain, recognised businesses that had gone above and beyond not only to support their communities but to grow and develop despite the pandemic.
During the first COVID 19 lockdown, In the Welsh Wind’s team was initially reduced to just the owners, Alex Jungmayr and Ellen Wakelam, with their young son.
Business manager Joe Lewis worked from home and the remaining three staff were placed on furlough. However, Ellen and Alex saw that the Cardigan area needed hand sanitiser and they were able to produce it, so they moved production away from gin and into sanitiser overnight.
Ellen said: “It was clear to us that we were in a position to be able to help the community, so there was no question that we would set up hand sanitiser production. From one small photo on social media of a bottle of hand sanitiser, we had queues of people up the distillery drive coming to collect.
“We also supplied many community groups and organisations including the RNLI, the Post Office delivery teams, the police, care homes and doctors’ surgeries. We provided the sanitiser free or at cost where we could.”
In addition to hand sanitiser, during the pandemic the team launched the distillery’s first ‘own brand’ Signature Style gin to much acclaim.
The company also worked with Bluestone Brewing Co to save 3,500 litres of Bluestone Summer Rocks beer from being wasted by creating a cask-aged Welsh vinegar which has since been featured on TV.
The business has grown significantly since September 2020, now employing 18 people and, most recently, has opened a gin bar, Bar 45, in Cardigan.
Ellen added: “Winning this award is really a testament to the whole team and how we’ve not only survived but grown and succeeded through what has been an incredibly difficult time for everyone.
“It’s been an honour to be able to help the community where I grew up by providing hand sanitiser and to work with Bluestone on the vinegar project as well as seeing our own success with the launch of Signature Style.”
New owners at Cenarth Falls Holiday Park in Newcastle Emlyn
SAVILLS, on behalf of a private client, has completed the sale of Cenarth Falls Holiday Park in Cenarth, Newcastle Emlyn, Wales, to Boutique Resorts Ltd for an undisclosed sum.
The holiday park is set on an attractively landscaped site extending approximately 11.52 acres (4.66 ha) which includes 1.92 acres of woodland. The holiday park has planning permission for 89 static caravan pitches and 30 mixed touring caravan pitches. At the entrance of the park there is a reception, sales office and games room. The property also provides a high quality fitness, hospitality and entertaining space including indoor swimming pool, gym, bar and function room licensed for a maximum of 290 guests, and owner’s accommodation comprising a three bedroom bungalow and adjoining two bedroom cottage.
Cenarth Falls Holiday Park is situated within the historic and picturesque village of Cenarth, Ceredigion, bordering Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire. The village is located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which attracts numerous visitors to the area. The River Teifi is renowned for excellent salmon and sea trout (sewin) fishing and the town of Cardigan is 10 minutes away with an array of shops and amenities. There are numerous sandy beaches nearby and many other activities on offer in the locality including walking, golf and water sports such as kayaking.
Richard Prestwich, Director in the Leisure and Trade Related team at Savills, says: “It has been a privilege to sell such a good quality holiday park, nurtured to its 5 star status over a 34 year period by the former family owner. The new owners are no strangers to high quality holiday businesses being an award winning holiday brand and they will look to improve the quality of the business further to complement their other holiday parks, with the nearest being Fishguard Bay Holiday Park.”
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