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.”
Changes to bus services in Ceredigion confirmed by local authority
THERE will be changes to local bus services in Ceredigion from Tuesday 3 January 2023.
The tenders received as part of a procurement process for operating several services have shown significant cost increases. This has resulted in substantial increases in subsidy levels being requested at a time when public finances are under tremendous pressure. The higher costs are largely reflective of particular challenges affecting the bus industry currently which includes considerable increased operating costs, lack of qualified and available drivers, uncertainty around future funding mechanisms as well as declining passenger numbers and changing travel behaviours.
Bus passenger numbers have been in decline across Wales and essentially halved in the period between 1982, where there were 181 million passenger journeys and 2019/20 where there were 91 million passenger journeys. This has been severely compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw a drop to 26 million passenger journeys in 2020/21, that has further impacted on the viability of local bus services.
The 22T (Aberystwyth-Devil’s Bridge), 27T (Penrhyncoch-Penbontrhydybeddau) and T29 (Tregaron Circular) demand responsive services will stop at the end of December 2022. This is due to the significant costs associated with providing them and the very low level of usage, which equate to unviable levels of public subsidy per passenger journey.
There will be changes to the timetables on the 525 (Aberystwyth-Ponterwyd), 526 (Aberystwyth-Penrhyncoch) and 585 (Aberystwyth-Tregaron-Lampeter) services. The timetables for these services, subject to submission by the operators and approval by the Traffic Commissioner, are attached. These timetables are based on proposals provided by the local bus operators and reflect what is operationally deliverable with the resources available, in terms of buses and drivers, at this time.
The T21 (Aberystwyth-Llanafan-Tregaron) and 552 Cardi Bach (New Quay-Cardigan) services will continue as currently.
All these contracts have been awarded on a 6 month basis to allow for a wider review.
Councillor Keith Henson, Cabinet Member for Highways and Environmental Services and Carbon Management said: “I would like to thank the local bus companies for their ongoing engagement in what is very challenging operating environment. We continue to work with them and in partnership with the other key stakeholders including the Welsh Government and Transport for Wales, seeking possible solutions and a way forward. Bus services and networks are dynamic and subject to change. Further changes are likely as the reality is that, in addition to the sparsity of resources, the amount of subsidy now required to provide the services is unaffordable, unjustifiable and unsustainable in the current financial climate.”
New hotel is to open in former warehouse in Cardigan
FFOREST, the outdoor lifestyle pioneer and staycation retreat favourite, has said that it will open its first hotel across two Grade II listed former warehouses this August. Alive with historical treasures, the hotel is themed around Cardigan’s maritime past and the local legend of the brig, Albion, which sailed 180 passengers from Cardigan to Canada in 1819. The hotel will provide a permanent legacy of that voyage and the spirit and endeavor of those aboard.
Located in West Wales, in the increasingly popular town of choice for creatives and laid-back living – Cardigan – The Albion sits directly on the River Teifi waterfront. In this first phase of opening, there will be 12 double bedrooms (en-suites, no family rooms) in the ‘Bridge’ warehouse with 11 further rooms and family suites available in the second Granary warehouse building next spring 2023. The 12 rooms have been designed around the existing historic features of the building, all restored to full heritage standards with views over the river from all rooms. Each room will honour those original emigrants and take its name from a log of the original settlers in New Brunswick.
Interiors are designed around the theme of ships cabins, but much more luxurious than the conditions that the Albion voyagers would have experienced two centuries ago. The cabins are lined entirely in wood panelling and this, together with most furnishings, has been repurposed and fashioned from reclaimed timber in fforest’s own workshops.
All rooms are designed individually and feature Welsh wool blankets, cushions and bedhead covers made from 100% pure new wool, woven just upstream from the Albion at an old mill, ‘Melin Teifi’. The mill used to be powered by the same waters that run into the river Teifi, and past the Albion before heading out to the sea. The textile motifs are based on traditional designs, but bespoke to fforest, designs perfected over 15 years with local craft legends. The bedding is certified British wool Duvets sourced from Devon – Devon Duvets – the first bedding company in the UK to achieve accreditation from British Wool. The wool blankets, textiles, socks, knitwear and enamel tableware in rooms are all also available to purchase.
Albion’s reception welcomes guests with a lounge area featuring relaxed seating and ‘The Galley’ cocktail bar, which will be open to the public and will have an extensive slate flagged riverside courtyard. The first floor has a guests only lounge/workroom which will also serve breakfasts prior to the restaurant opening later in the year. Yr Odyn restaurant (The Kiln in English), named after the remnants of the Lime Kilns forming part of the wharf complex, will open in the autumn of 2022 and will serve the best of local and seasonal cuisine, including meat from animals reared at fforest farm, with an emphasis on cooking over fire and influences from Scandinavia and Japan. Announcement on head chef to follow.
Other features to come will include an outdoor sauna and onsen (Japanese inspired bathing facility which fforest farm is known for) in a private elevated woodland glade housed discreetly behind the hotel. This is planned to open in December 2022. The amenities partner for the hotel is cult luxury skincare brand Aesop, featuring their recycled bottles and range of products for hair and body care plus fragrances to scent the communal spaces. Uniforms for the staff have been designed in collaboration with Neem, a climate conscious brand producing workwear shirts made from recycled shirts. Guests can walk directly into town over the bridge or along the river straight into the wildlife reserve and even up to fforest farm.
The design of The Albion has been meticulously planned to retain as much of the original buildings as possible, leaving parts raw to tell their own story. A highlight is the historic graffiti etched into the original limewash walls of the third floor – pencil sketches depicting tall ships, signatures, calculations for rope and sail cloth – dating back to the second half of the 19th Century.
The interior design of each room has the essence of a captain’s cabin: reclaimed wood lines the walls, whilst 150 year old beams make up the flooring. The furniture has been custom-made using Welsh-grown cedar and beeswaxed cement boards, complete with luxurious king size beds and hand-picked reclaimed fixtures.
James Lynch, founder of fforest and chief designer for The Albion said: “This has been a real pasison project of mine over the pandemic. With funding from the Development Bank of Wales, the ambition was to restore the existing building; to emphasise its heritage qualities, its original and unique features, then design and craft spaces within the open floors that would embrace and complement those qualities. To fold rooms into the shell created, that deliver on comfort and beauty as standard, but make every stay a special experience of its own. Contemporary services, comfort and style with the particular qualities of these heritage buildings: historic, high quality, unique; the essence of place, and of history, embedded in the fabric. We have a mantra at fforest for the accommodation and experience we provide: ‘Warmth, Craft and Comfort’. To the Albion we can add ‘Heritage’.”
Steffan Walker, General Manager of The Albion, added: “As a local to Cardiganshire, I am thrilled to be opening a world-class venue on my doorstep and to encourage more visitors to beautiful West Wales. I look forward to welcoming our guests from near and afar this summer.”
Richard Easton of the Development Bank of Wales said: “Working with our colleagues in Welsh Government, we are working hard to fund projects that help to boost our vital tourism and hospitality sectors in Wales. Our continued support for James and the wider team at fforest is a reflection of our belief in their business and the opportunities that they are bringing to Cardigan. Their creativity combined with business acumen means that they have made a long-lasting impact in the local community, creating much needed jobs and putting Cardigan firmly on the map.”
fforest is a family-run business, conceived by husband and wife who had a lifetime of creativity in Shoreditch before making the move to West Wales in 2003 – James Lynch and Sian Tucker. They run the three fforest locations across Cardigan – fforest Farm (200-acres with 8 accommodation options), fforest Coast and, in town, apartments and culinary venues such as Pizzatipi. Started in 2004, with help from their four sons, guests of fforest have always been encouraged to be a part of the family and visit any and all of the spaces. The Albion is the next iteration of this and will offer a more refined experience to guests whilst maintaining the down-to-earth and simplistic luxury that fforest embodies.
Community groups receive a share of cash from Ogi’s community fund ‘Cefnogi’
COMMUNITY groups across Pembrokeshire, Monmouthshire and the Vale of Glamorgan have each received a cash injection, thanks to Ogi’s new ‘Cefnogi’ local support fund.
Wales’s homegrown internet company, Ogi has given over £4,000 so far to community groups in Pembrokeshire, Monmouthshire and the Vale of Glamorgan, to date, with everything from community gardens to coffee mornings being supported by the broadband provider’s micro-fund.
Building on the company’s sponsorship of local grassroots activities at Haverfordwest AFC, Llantwit Major RFC and Portskewett and Sudbrook FC, the ‘Cefnogi’ micro-fund offers small, local groups a cash injection to support activities that directly benefit their communities.
Speaking about the fund, Head of Brand and Engagement, Sarah Vining, said: “Investing in our communities is an important part of our plan to bring full fibre connectivity to towns and villages across south Wales.
“This initiative, bringing small, but no less vital, cash injections to thriving local community groups is our way of giving back to those that are providing much needed support locally.”
The fund, set up by the regional Community Liaison team, offers grants of around £250 to local grassroots groups in the broadband providers roll our areas.
Community Liaison Officer, Martin Jones, one of the team who originally came up with the idea for the fund, said: “I’m thrilled to see so many groups being supported by the ‘Cefnogi’ fund.
“Community really is at the heart of all we do here at Ogi, and giving back through our micro-fund is making a real difference to the local groups we support.”
Ogi’s support extends to volunteering opportunities too, with teams across the businesses having supported the clearing of residents gardens, hosting coffee mornings and redeveloping community spaces.
For more information on the ‘Cefnogi’ micro-fund visit www.ogi.wales/support.
The latest round of the fund is accepting applications until the end of October 2022.
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