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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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Council leaders meet governments over Growing Mid Wales Growth Deal

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lLEADERS of Powys and Ceredigion County Councils in their roles as joint chairs of the Growing Mid Wales Joint Committee met with David TC Davies MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the UK Government in Wales, and Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Economy to discuss the Growth Deal for Mid Wales and deliver the next important step.

Following the approval of the Growth Deal Portfolio Business Case at the Growing Mid Wales Joint Committee on 21 September, both Ceredigion County Council and Powys County Council’s cabinet members also went on to unanimously endorse the business case for formal submission to Governments.

The purpose of the Portfolio Business Case is to provide an overview of the scope, function and arrangements for the Mid Wales Growth Deal Portfolio – on the basis of an initial set of Programme and Project proposals, that can now be brought forward.

The Portfolio Business Case sets out the headline figures for capital expenditure that the Local Authorities are seeking from both the UK and Welsh Government via the Mid Wales Growth Deal, amounting to a total capital grant of £110m.

Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn, Leader of Ceredigion County Council and joint chair of the Growing Mid Wales Board: “Approval of the business case will enable us to draw down funding to support projects in the area that will boost the local economy and support job creation. We’re really getting the ball rolling now in the development of the deal which is so important for the region.”

The Portfolio Business Case will now be formally reviewed through the Accounting Officer Review on behalf of the Welsh Cities and Growth Deals Implementation Board (WCGIB) – the Joint Board between UK and Welsh Governments that govern Welsh City and Growth Deals. It will then go on to underpin the Final Deal Agreement between the region and both Governments – which the ambition remains to conclude before the end of the year.

Leader of Powys County Council, Councillor Rosemarie Harris said: “Being able to discuss the business case in detail and share the vision with David TC Davies and Vaughan Gething is a very big step forward for us and we very much value their interest. A lot of work has gone into the development of these documents to this stage – and there is lot to do yet.”

Both Leaders added: “We are pleased to have reached this point, and we hope we can conclude the Deal before the end of the year so that we can work with our businesses and communities to bring forward projects in earnest next year.”

Minister for the UK Government, David TC Davies, said “It’s great to hear more detail of the ambitious plans for the Mid Wales Growth Deal and take this next step towards achieving our goals. The support of the UK Government, working with our partners, means that we can deliver real improvements for the people of Mid Wales”

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “The Welsh Government is fully committed to working with partners to progress the Growth Deal for Mid Wales, so I’m pleased we are now a step closer to a Full Deal Agreement being jointly agreed. I am now keen to see the Deal being implemented, so that local people, businesses and communities start to see investments being made in projects and programmes which will help deliver tangible and significant benefits to the Mid Wales economy.

“As we move ahead with the recovery and reconstruction work arising from the Covid pandemic, we have ambitious plans for Mid Wales, which we are taking forward with our partners in a spirit of collaboration. The Growth Deal is a component part of our plans to create new jobs and opportunities in local communities, which will help us deliver a greener, fairer and more prosperous Mid Wales.”

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People of Ceredigion encouraged to join careers and jobs fair

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The people of Ceredigion are being encouraged to join Working Wales’ latest careers and jobs fair.

The free digital careers and jobs fair, called Your Career, Your Future, will run from 10am to 12pm on Thursday 21 October where people in Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire will be able to listen to live presentations about the main job growth sectors in their area, jobs in demand, live vacancies, future developments and have the opportunities to speak with local and national employers.

The event is brought by Working Wales (delivered by Careers Wales), the Department for Work and Pensions, the South West Regional Skills Partnership and other organisations and employers.

The session will explore:

  • Jobs
  • Apprenticeships
  • Education and training
  • Employment support
  • Volunteering
  • Other support services

There will be a focus on certain sectors, including hospitality and tourism, transport and logistics, food and farming, construction, health and social care and more.

Wendy Williams, operational development manager in Llanelli, said: “This will be the third time that we’re running a digital careers and jobs fair, which is a vital service for job seekers in Carmarthenshire. Furlough was still available during our last series of events and now that the Job Retention Scheme has ended, even more people could be at risk of redundancy and we know job security remains a high priority for the people of Llanelli.

“Not only is this event an opportunity to see what options are out there at the moment, but also understand the potential opportunities on the horizon and be informed of alternatives that may otherwise have not been considered.

Speaking on behalf of the Regional Learning and Skills Partnership for South West Wales, manager Jane Lewis, said: “The pandemic has created a difficult landscape for both jobseekers and employers looking to recruit.

“The region is lucky to be home to a wide range of businesses operating across many different industries offering opportunities for all, therefore we would urge all individuals looking to pursue a different career path or those looking for employment to attend.”

Careers Wales centres are now back open for pre-booked face-to-face appointments and some centres are also offering drop-in sessions where appointments are not necessary. All centres operate safely and in compliance with COVID regulations, including social distancing, requirement of facemasks and regular sanitising stations.

Call 0800 028 4844 to book or visit Working Wales’ contact page for more ways to get in touch. A full list of centres can be found here.

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First drive-in Powys Business Awards declared a big success

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THE FIRST ever drive-in Powys Business Awards on the Newtown campus of NPTC Group of Colleges was declared a big success as the event was blessed with fine weather last Friday night.

Organised by Mid Wales Manufacturing Group (MWMG), the awards were held outdoors as a health safety precaution because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The awards

showcase business excellence across Powys and this attracted more entries than ever.

All the finalists were allocated a parking space in their vehicles in front of a stage and huge screen where their videos were played as the category nominations were read out either by compere Lisa Angharad or by sponsors.

Boxed meals were prepared by chefs and students from NPTC Group of Colleges and served to the guests attending event in their cars. Some brought chairs with them to sit outside their cars and mingle with other guests at an outside bar area.

Powys Business Awards 2021. Picture by Phil Blagg Photography. PB064-2021-62

Councillor Iain McIntosh, portfolio holder for housing, planning and economic regeneration at Powys County Council, said: “It has been a brilliant night and it’s fantastic to see so many great businesses here. I’d like to congratulate all the winners and indeed all finalists too.”

He  presented the Powys Business of the Year award to Aled Woosnam, owner of AL Technical and 23 Social, Newtown.

Introducing the award ceremony, Councillor Rosemarie Harris, leader of Powys County Council, said it was a night of celebration for Powys businesses which had shown great resilience during the pandemic. She thanked and congratulated MWMG for organising the event in a different format this year.

“I am told that there has been more interest than ever in the awards this year which is really exciting after all the challenges you have faced,” she added. “We are very proud of you and thank you for all you have done for Powys.”

During the pandemic, she said, the council had issued more than £90 million of grants to support companies and has earmarked a further £2 million for a Covid Recovery Fund in Powys.

The council continued to support economic development in Powys in a variety of ways, and a portfolio of projects had been submitted to the Mid Wales Growth Deal. There was still time for businesses and others to come forward with projects on the themes of agriculture, food and drink, digital sites and premises, with particular emphasis on expanding broadband coverage in the county.

Aware that some businesses were looking to expand, she urged them to speak to the council about their growth projects. The council had also been allowed for the first time to submit bids to the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund for economic development and she was hopeful they would be successful.

A Global Centre for Rail Excellence is also being developed near Ystradgynlais, creating exciting possibilities for Powys.

Ceri Stephens, MWMG’s group manager, thanked everyone involved in organising and staging the awards for their support, especially the businesses. “Considering it was the first time we have ever organised drive-in awards, I was delighted with the event and we were so lucky with the weather. Feedback from people who attended has been very positive which is pleasing to hear.”

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