From Entrepreneurs to Children in School, Brexit's a Worry to All; Brexit Day, March 29, Is Now Just Seven Weeks Away and Yesterday Chief Reporter Martin Shipton Visited Valleys Locations and Heard Some People's Views on Brexit Now in Areas Where the Majority of People Voted to Leave the European Union

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 8, 2019 | Go to article overview

From Entrepreneurs to Children in School, Brexit's a Worry to All; Brexit Day, March 29, Is Now Just Seven Weeks Away and Yesterday Chief Reporter Martin Shipton Visited Valleys Locations and Heard Some People's Views on Brexit Now in Areas Where the Majority of People Voted to Leave the European Union


BREXIT is such an all-pervasive theme of British politics that I arrived in Hirwaun believing the Foreign Affairs Committee's slightly different take would be refreshing.

Several hours later it was clear that the preoccupation with the twists and turns of the Brexit saga continue to dominate many people's thinking.

On a day when the Labour Party's internal divisions on the issue reached a new level, it's hardly surprising that those who still hold out a hope that Brexit can be stopped didn't want to concentrate too much on a post-Brexit future.

The diverse group of businesslinked people who joined the MPs for lunch in the sumptuous surroundings of the Ty Newydd Country Hotel were unanimous in their concern about the continuing state of uncertainty.

Some, like Peter Florence of the globally successful Hay Festival, wanted to make the point that there was a distinct difference between British or Welsh brand identity and the image of Britain the UK government may wish to present to the world.

After the private working lunch, Mr Florence said: "There's been a lot of discussion about identity, how we convey that, and which values we think resonate internationally. Interestingly, one of those things is humility - a sense of other nations and how we might be perceived.

"It's very interesting listening to the businessmen in the room talking about their anxieties about trading without any kind of deal. They are keenly aware of the value of the European market to British and Welsh agriculture, and concern even now that we don't know what's happening.

"The difference between what Britain is and what British people are when they're abroad is important. We don't all want to be defined by our government or our state. The people in the room are entrepreneurs - they're selling premium spirits or de-luxe motor cars or the university sector. They're selling things that are global ideas and sometimes a sense of national identity is a help and sometimes it isn't. Sometimes it's simply not appropriate."

Huw Thomas, of National Farmers Union Cymru, said: "It's been an interesting discussion about Wales' place in the UK and Wales' place in the world. I think the Brexit issue is playing out very strongly in the background. There's quite a bit of discussion about the projection of soft power, and whether that's better achieved through the Welsh Government or through the UK Government.

"There's a lot of anxiety among our members because we're no nearer a resolution to the Brexit issue than we were a few months ago. We export about a third of our lamb crop each year, and 95% of that goes to the EU. The 500 million residents of the EU are our nearest and most important export market."

Stephen Davies of the successful Penderyn Distillery, which has been expanding its export year by year since its malt whisky was launched in 2004, said: "The uncertainty around Brexit is a problem for us - not knowing what's going to happen and with the deadline approaching very rapidly.

"Actually, if it was WTO rules, there are no tariffs on whisky, so from a pure business point of view that probably wouldn't be an issue. …

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From Entrepreneurs to Children in School, Brexit's a Worry to All; Brexit Day, March 29, Is Now Just Seven Weeks Away and Yesterday Chief Reporter Martin Shipton Visited Valleys Locations and Heard Some People's Views on Brexit Now in Areas Where the Majority of People Voted to Leave the European Union
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