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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 Hunt 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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Carmarthen Partner celebrates 30 year anniversary with Ashmole & Co

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SHARON GEORGE, one of Ashmole & Co’s Partners in Carmarthen, is celebrating a significant work anniversary this month having been employed by the firm for 30 years.

A lot of changes have taken place during Sharon’s time with Ashmole & Co. When she started as a Trainee Accountant in 1992 there were just five offices in Haverfordwest, Carmarthen, Newcastle Emlyn, Swansea and Ammanford compared to the current 13. Accountancy has also drastically changed from being an almost completely paper system to these days being massively computerised.

Sharon, who is from Pendine, said, “I started working as a trainee for Ashmole & Co in 1992, straight out of school. I then worked at the same time as studying for my HNC. I remember being told at the time I started that 80 had applied for the trainee position so I felt very lucky to get the job.  A lot has changed over 30 years. It was a very manual job at the start. We had to hand deliver tax returns in big carrier bags to the tax office in Carmarthen!  Nowadays the technology has improved the role of an accountant considerably.”

Sharon has been a Partner with Ashmole & Co since 2011 and as well as managing a team in Carmarthen she also manages the Pontardulais and St Clears offices. She lives with her husband and two sons in Pendine. In her spare time Sharon loves walking along the beach or practising her baking and is an avid Strictly Come Dancing fan. 

Ashmole & Co, Chartered, Certified Accountants, has been established for 125 years this year. It is one of the largest accountancy and auditing practices in Wales, operating from thirteen offices throughout south and west Wales including Swansea, Haverfordwest and Llandeilo.

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Welsh Government partnership brings new office development to Cross Hands

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT, in partnership with Carmarthenshire County Council, is supporting the construction of new high-quality office space in Cross Hands, which will help create new jobs in the local area, Economy Minister Vaughan Gething announced today.

Carmarthenshire County Council has provided a £492,000 Property Development Grant to Sterling Developments, a local company, to support the delivery of the commercial offices at the Cross Hands East Strategic Employment Site.

The Cross Hands East Strategic Employment Site has been delivered via a joint venture between the Welsh Government and Carmarthenshire County Council, comprising a large programme of infrastructure works. A total of 17 commercial development plots have been created for sale, with a number of plot sales already completed. Delivered in two phases, the second phase has been supported by £2.4m European Regional Development Fund investment through the Welsh Government.

As well as boosting the local economy, the office development will also contribute to the Welsh Government’s aspiration of providing more ready-made commercial space for businesses – which will help create new jobs in communities across the country.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Businesses of all sizes across Wales need modern sites and premises that will enable them to expand and grow. This is a key part of our Economic Action Plan, which sets out our vision for inclusive growth built on strong foundations, supercharged industries of the future and productive regions.

“Today’s announcement will help us do just that, providing a boost to the regional economy in south west Wales as we all continue to recover from the Coronavirus pandemic.

“This project is a prime example of a constructive partnership that’s delivering for the benefit of local people. I wish Sterling Developments well with their new Cross Hands scheme.”

Cllr Gareth John, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure Culture and Tourism, said: “Carmarthenshire County Council is committed to providing businesses with the best facilities, at the best locations, to thrive. That is why we have been working with the Welsh Government, through the Cross Hands Joint Venture, to secure £2.4million of EU funding to match our own £2.5 million contribution and develop the second phase of Cross Hands East, a 19-hectare employment site that provides serviced plots within a thriving business environment.

“This development has already seen new businesses establish themselves here and begin to flourish with the potential for the site to create hundreds of quality jobs. This second phase of developing Cross Hands East will deliver more sustainable economic growth that will have a positive impact on people, businesses and communities in the area and wider region.

“The Property Development Grant awarded to Sterling Developments by Carmarthenshire County Council stimulates private sector investment at the employment site and will deliver high-quality commercial space to the market.”

Simon Thomas, Director of Sterling Developments, added: “We have designed a building that is architecturally appealing and will deliver high-quality office space in Cross Hands. The new building will provide businesses with modern facilities that they require to grow and prosper. The support from Carmarthenshire County Council and the Welsh Government has been key to the progression of this scheme. Sterling Developments are delighted to be playing a role in the development of this excellent employment site in Cross Hands.”

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Carmarthen grassroots music venue CWRW wins £10,000 PRS for Music Back to Live Music Venue Prize

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L-R: Gem Griffiths (Winger Records, CWRW Promoter), Michael Hilton (CWRW Owner)

PRS for Music, the UK-headquartered organisation that represents the rights of over 160,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers around the world, announces beloved Carmarthen grassroots music bar CWRW (pronounced koo-roo) as the winner of its Back to Live Music Venue Prize of £10 000 for the Welsh region.

The recovery-focussed nationwide competition was launched by PRS for Music to give independent live music venues across the UK the chance to win one of six regional prizes of up to £10,000 and inject much-needed financial support into venues who are dedicated to improving live music experiences in their local communities.

Community advocate and music fan himself, CWRW owner Michael Hilton, plans on using the £10 000 PRS for Music prize money to upgrade the venue’s lighting, add recording capabilities and create a more inclusive space so audience-goers with disabilities can participate and access live music events.

“Winning PRS for Music’s Back to Live Music Venue Prize is incredible” explains Michael Hilton, “incentives like these are fundamentally important for grassroots venues like ours to continue to provide creative spaces for the community and emerging talent to develop their skills. The funds will be used to develop the audience experience, inclusion and continuing to support the next generation of artists”. 

Phillip Deacon, co-owner of The County Music Bar, said: “We are hugely thankful to PRS for Music for this initiative and of course for the recognition in winning this award. We as a venue had barely survived the pandemic and know of many that didn’t. However, we did. This is a testament to the support from bands and fans alike who rallied around as soon as we could provide entertainment again. We now, however, face the perfect storm. Recovery from the pandemic, facing a cost-of-living crisis and a frankly ludicrous energy bill hike of nearly 550%.  This money will provide a significant breathing space to repair and replace equipment and better facilities for all while we focus on our further survival in these difficult times. We want to continue to be a local music hub for all and provide access to up and coming as well as more established bands.” 

The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the live music sector has been well-documented; between 2019 and 2021, PRS for Music saw an 84% decline in the number of live performance setlists reported to the organisation, falling from 124,000 in 2019, to 19,300 in 2021. 

Tony Barton, Head of Writer Relations, PRS for Music, said: “Independent live music venues are pivotal within local communities, providing spaces that inspire the next generation of songwriters and performers. Congratulations to The County Music Bar for keeping live music at the forefront through a very difficult time.” 

Andrea Czapary Martin, CEO, PRS for Music, said: “Venues like The County Music Bar in Chesterfield are so vitally important to the health and growth of music in the UK. We’re proud to find ways to support local scenes with projects like the Back to Live Music Venue Prize and thrilled that Phillip and Lauren Deacon are working to keep the music going.” 

PRS for Music’s Back to Live Music Venue Prize competition launched in March 2022 as the organisation’s direct response to the devastating effects of the global pandemic on live music venues in the UK. Open to independent live music venues who are not part of a national brand whose offering included music prior to pandemic closures, winning venues were determined by a judging panel made up of leading representatives from across the music, arts, and hospitality sectors. Complete prize terms and conditions can be found here. Four more UK regional Back to Live Music Venue Prize winners will be announced over the coming months. 

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