The Government's negotiating objectives: the White Paper Contents

Annex 7: Note of meeting in Swansea, 2 March 2017

Cara Aitchison

Cardiff Metropolitan University

Steven Altmann-Richer


Dr Jane Davidson

Pro-Vice Chancellor University of Wales, Trinity St David

David Davies


Stephen James

NFU Wales

Andy Jones

Milford Haven Port Authority

Tony Kelly

CBI Communications

Tiernan Kenny


Liz Maher

Centurion Vat

John Mercer

NFU Wales

Tracy North

Outwrite PR

Mike Plaut

Northmace and CBI Wales Chair

Ian Price

Director, CBI Wales

Kieron Singleton


Philip Wallace


The meeting opened with attendees each highlighting a key issue or priority for their business when the UK leaves the EU. Some issues were raised by more than one business, and included the following:

The need for continued unfettered tariff and barrier free access to EU markets;

The ability to continue to recruit EU migrant labour for those businesses which need to do so. Also important is the free movement of labour throughout the EU to enable businesses to make the best use of skills in different offices throughout the EU;

When EU funding is no longer available, universities will need help to bridge the funding gap in the short term and to target other funding sources;

Opportunities to re-shape regulations might help make the UK more competitive in terms of inward investment;

If there are to be any technical changes to VAT, then there must be sufficient time for businesses to plan for them;

Wales will be particularly affected by the loss of EU funding. It will need either continued participation in European programmes of UK funding to replace EU structural funds. Any replacement for EU funding should not come through Barnet formula funding, but must be focused on areas of need;

Customers are worried about potential future difficulties around customs clearance, rather than tariffs;

There will be opportunities for new trade agreements with Europe and Asia and these will need to be accompanied by an ability to deploy staff around the world;

Businesses want to be able to reassure those EU migrant workers already in the UK that they can stay;

Businesses would like more information from Government about the UK’s negotiating objectives, and the Government’s industrial strategy;

Businesses are concerned about the risk of no deal being reached with the EU and a risk of cliff edges for different sectors if there is no UK–EU deal.

The group then had a discussion about a number of issues including whether transitional arrangements might be required; the opportunities and risks that might arise from new trade deals and new markets; the potential implications for businesses of a new UK immigration policy; and the impact of a hard border with the Republic of Ireland. Key points made in the discussion included:

Concerns about whether there really was scope to develop new trade agreements with other countries, and what help would be available to help businesses identify new markets;

The potential to develop new UK agriculture policies which are fit for UK farming and support the whole farm economy. However, threats to Welsh agriculture include very high tariffs which could decimate the Welsh sheep industry, as could imports of New Zealand lamb or South American beef;

Universities in Wales have a high level of connectivity with industry, including the food and drink industry and rely on funding from the EU to a greater extent than in England and Scotland.

The free movement of workers around Europe for training and career development is important. Also many high quality research staff are from overseas. It is very difficult to attract UK researchers and it would be very serious to lose EU staff. There are many examples of Welsh businesses which rely on EU workers.

Many vessels cross the Irish Sea with freight, and there is also regular ferry traffic. If there were to be a hard border with Ireland there is no infrastructure or capacity in small Welsh towns to deal with the inevitable delays of freight traffic.

Roughly half of Wales’ trade is with the EU. If the UK were to trade with the EU on WTO terms there would be a return of tariffs which are high in some sectors like cars and agriculture. Non-tariff barriers would be even more of a problem. Margins are so tight, even small tariffs are a problem.

The ERASMUS programme has been very successful—about 500 students a year from Wales have participated. There is a good correlation between participation in the scheme and future career success which in turn boosts the Welsh economy.

Business is where the help and energy is needed to help generate wealth in Wales. There are many SMEs in Wales and they need a replacement for EU funding to support them to grow and increase capacity.

3 April 2017