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FUW meets with Wales and UK leaders

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FUW Carwyn Jones: (L-R) FUW Deputy President Brian Thomas, FUW President Glyn Roberts and First Minister Carwyn Jones

RURAL Prosperity was the key focus for FUW leaders during meetings with Wales’ First Minister Carwyn Jones and UK Government Secretaries of State Michael Gove and Alun Cairns at the Royal Welsh Show.

“No event better demonstrates agriculture’s role in supporting our economy than the Royal Welsh Show, where thousands of businesses which are part of the agricultural supply chain are on display.

“For every businesses at the Royal Welsh Show this week, there are hundreds more which are also reliant on agriculture,” said FUW President Glyn Roberts.

Mr Roberts said that these key messages were acknowledged by First Minister Carwyn Jones, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove and Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns and that the Union was encouraged by discussions had in bilateral meetings with the UK and Welsh government ministers.

In addition the FUW President reinforced the point that Welsh farmers were already delivering a range of environmental benefits, and that further recognition of this would be welcome, given Mr Gove’s recent indication that future farm support should focus on the delivery of environmental outcomes.

“We need to be realistic in terms of what is allowed under WTO rules and the dangers of implementing well-meaning aspirational policies which have not been properly investigated.

“We spent around six years investigating in detail ways to implement changes to the current payment regime which minimised financial disruption and economic turmoil.

“Similar care needs to be taken in terms of proposals which could be far more devastating, and we cannot be sure what an appropriate agricultural policy will look like until we know the details of the agreements currently being hammered out with the EU and others, and the detailed modelling we have called for has been carried out,” said Glyn Roberts.

Mr Roberts added that while the important work of looking to the future continued within the FUW, a further key message stressed during meetings with ministers and politicians had been the need to secure a realistic Brexit transition period.

“We need to ensure that on day one of Brexit, and during the lengthy period it is likely to take to reach agreements with the EU, things do not look particularly different for our farmers.

“We have already called for a cross government agri summit to take place as soon as possible to address these issues and to ensure that we still have the same broad framework in terms of farm payments, devolved powers, and tariff and barrier-free access to the continental market, when we leave the European Union.”

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The Reshuffle

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Weak and stable: Theresa May's 'major reshuffle' unravels

THE PRIME MINISTER’s attempt to reshuffle her ministerial team dissolved into a non-event on Monday and Tuesday (Jan 9-10).

The dramatic transformation trailed in largely sympathetic coverage in right wing broadsheets on online news outlets, failed to materialise as the reshuffle started with farce and proceeded to chaos as Monday unfolded.

The opportunity for the reshuffle was generated by the loss of former First Secretary of State Damian Green following a finding he had breached the ministerial code by being less than honest during an investigation into his conduct before he was a government minister.

The Conservative Party chair, Patrick Loughlin was widely supposed to be up for the chop; however, a tweet from Conservative HQ managed to not only pre-empt his departure but announce the appointment of the wrong person to his job, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

Things were complicated by the unexpected departure of the Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire, who requires surgery just at a time when discussions regarding the long-running suspension into the Northern Ireland Assembly are moving into a new phase and are being given added urgency by Brexit negotiations.

While Jeremy Hunt was being predicted for a significant promotion from Health Secretary, the continuing crisis within the English NHS was suggested as a significant bar to him succeeding to the senior post previously held by Damian Green. Instead, Mr Green’s Cabinet Office role went to David Lidington but without the title of First Secretary of State.

Mr Hunt remained the centre of the drama by reportedly refusing to leave his post of Health Secretary to take up that of Business Secretary. A lengthy discussion on his role took place, with Mr Hunt emerging still Health Secretary and with responsibility for the government’s social care policy added to his portfolio.

Mr Hunt’s reluctance to move, meant that incumbent Business Secretary Greg Clark, tipped for demotion after some uninspiring performances, stayed in place.

The ramifications of Mr Hunt standing his ground unfolded when Justine Greening dramatically quit the government following a two and a half hour meeting with Theresa May, during which she was offered the post of Work and Pensions Secretary, having only recently taken control of the government’s struggling equalities policy within her former role.

Following her resignation, Justine Greening tweeted pointedly: “Social mobility matters to me & our country more than my ministerial career.”

As Mrs May’s options narrowed, even Andrea Leadsom – managed to retain her post as Leader of the House of Commons.

While other parties piled into attack the reshuffle, the Conservative’s press office managed to ignore the fact that ministers had quit and refused to be moved by claiming the Cabinet was the right team to lead the country. Bearing in mind that a few hours earlier the party’s own leader did not share that view, the statement demonstrates the depths of Theresa May’s humiliation and powerless state. Unable to move ministers she wanted to move and carry out the reorganisation she wanted, instead of new lamps for old around the Cabinet table, it appears that Mrs May has found the limits of her power and there has been much heat but no new light.

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Politics

The party’s over for new UKIP AM

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A week is a long time in politics: New AM shunned by own party

THE IDEA that UKIP is less a political movement than a long running feud has been given more credence by the Assembly group’s refusal to admit new UKIP AM Mandy Jones to their number.

UKIP has shed two AMs since the Welsh Assembly elections. Mark Reckless left to be with but not of the Conservative Party, while Nathan Gill, who left the group after being displaced by current leader Neil Hamilton, now departed to concentrate on the European Parliament after being notable for his poor attendance in Cardiff Bay.

Under the regional list system, Mandy Jones – the third choice UKIP candidate on the North Wales list – succeeded to Nathan Gill’s vacated seat on December 29.

Her succession to the seat was lauded by UKIP’s Assembly leader Neil Hamilton, who said: “We are looking forward to welcoming our new team member, Mandy Jones into the group. UKIP is stronger with an additional member in the National Assembly and on the front foot in Wales. We are looking forward to 2018, where we will be even more active and vocal, as we continue to stand up for the people of Wales against the cosy Cardiff Bay consensus.”

However, having been on the front foot UKIP now seems to have taken two steps forward and one step back.

A press statement released by the part on Tuesday (January 9) said: ‘After discussions with Mandy Jones, AM for North Wales, we have collectively and unanimously decided that she will not be joining the UKIP Group in the National Assembly.

‘Despite being asked by all five members of the Group not to do so, she has chosen to employ individuals in her office who are either members of, or have recently campaigned actively for, other parties, or both. They have been personally and publicly abusive to some of the UKIP AMs and sought deliberately to undermine UKIP Wales. Their behaviour and attitude makes it impossible to work with Mandy Jones on a basis of confidence and trust.

‘The UKIP Wales Group are united in this decision’.

The release repeated UKIP’s pledge to ‘continue to speak against the cosy Cardiff Bay consensus.’

That promise appears likely to be borne out, bearing in mind its inability to form a consensus with those elected under its party colours.

Those Mandy Jones has chosen to appoint to work with her were all members of former UKIP leader Nathan Gill’s staff.

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WG announces £50m Brexit fund

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Carwyn Jones needs to up his game: Mark Isherwood AM

FIRST MINISTER Carwyn Jones has announced a significant cash boost to help Welsh businesses and public services plan and prepare for Brexit.

The EU Transition Fund – supported by an initial £50m – will be developed in partnership with Welsh businesses, public services and other key organisations, to provide tailored support as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

The fund will provide a combination of financial support and loan funding, and will support the provision of technical, commercial, export-related and sectoral-specific advice for businesses.

In addition, the EU Transition Fund will be designed to help employers retain and continue to attract EU nationals, who make a crucial contribution to Wales. The fund will underline Wales’ welcome to people from other countries who have made Wales their home.

The fund will also provide dedicated development support for Wales’ agricultural industry as it prepares for transition and the future once the UK has left the EU.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “Brexit poses different challenges and opportunities for each and every aspect of Welsh life – from our local businesses and major employers, to our farmers, hospitals and universities.

“The EU Transition Fund will help meet the challenges that lie ahead. Developed in partnership with our businesses and public services, it will provide targeted and innovative support, which will help them survive and, indeed, thrive outside the EU.

“I am making an early announcement about this fund, so we have the greatest opportunity to design this fund with those organisations and businesses it is intended to help.

“My priority is to ensure Wales is in the best possible position to deal with the challenges and opportunities ahead. As a government, we are committed to providing solutions which work for Wales and we will continue to work with partners to make the most of every opportunity.”

The £50m EU Transition Fund is supported by an initial £10m down payment in the 2018-19 final budget. It builds on £5m allocated for Brexit preparedness over 2018-19 and 2019-20 as part of the 2 year Budget agreement with Plaid Cymru.

Responding to the announcement Welsh Conservative Brexit spokesman, Mark Isherwood said: “In the Autumn Budget the Chancellor announced an extra £3bn to help prepare the UK for Brexit and once again, Carwyn Jones and his Welsh Labour Government is playing catch-up.

“This is a small step in the right direction but sadly for Wales, since the referendum, the First Minister and his government has been in a state of paralysis, which has ensured that our country has been a step behind.

“I have long called on the First Minister to end his prophecies of doom and gloom over Brexit and provide the people of Wales with words of confidence, optimism and importantly a plan to lead our nation to success.

“Carwyn Jones urgently needs to up his game and ensure that Wales is sufficiently resourced and prepared to embrace the opportunities and tackle the challenges that lie ahead.”

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