First Minister Carwyn Jones has today written exclusively for the Times Redbox on Wales’ relationship with its largest export market, the USA, following the vote to leave the EU. Full text of the article is below.
What America Wants, by First Minister Carwyn Jones
“You might be able to wing it on the airwaves with “Brexit means Brexit”. You might even try “no running commentary” on the floor of the House of Commons. But, these non-answers will cut no ice on international trade visits. I have recently returned from a week in America, where I met with businesses and political representatives in Atlanta, Cincinnati and Chicago. I can confirm that Brexit has firmly displaced Donald Trump as the one thing everyone wanted to talk about. And quite understandably people wanted answers, not evasion. Certainty not soundbites.
“I have made it an immediate priority for the Welsh Government to get out and sell Wales to the world like never before following the Brexit vote. I was pleased to announce a deal with Zimmer Biomet, an American medical manufacturing firm, whilst in the States, supporting their existing operation in Wales. Our intensified international engagement will be complemented by a new business growth and confidence programme here at home. Now Wales does pretty well when it comes to inward investment – in fact we’ve reported record figures over the last three years – and it is America, not Europe that represents our biggest trading partner. And there are some absolutes I can offer to American companies – not least on our skills agenda. Wales spends more per head than England on education – we deliver quality apprenticeships, not cut price alternatives. Access to Government support is fast and flexible, not bogged down in a Whitehall swamp and unemployment is now a full percentage point lower than England.
“On Brexit however, there are only so many assurances I can give as leader of a devolved nation. I set out very clearly our number one aim going into negotiations, which was to retain unfettered access to the single market for goods and services. I’m under no illusions that American companies looking to set up in Wales, or elsewhere in the UK, have an eye on a market of 500million and not 3million, or even 60million. To her credit, the Prime Minister has promised Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland a full role in developing a response to Brexit, and that is being honoured to date. But, I think the UK Government needs to get real if they think they can develop solutions in secret and then just pull a rabbit out of a hat in January. Politics doesn’t work like that anymore, and business never has. Investors are making decisions the world over, right now, and without a firm steer from the UK Government they will make their own best guesses.
“The unspoken truth behind the silence is that the divisions in the Tory party, rather than being healed by the referendum, are being exposed like never before. There are sensible voices, from both the Remain and Leave camps, who will fight for the best deal in the interests of jobs and trade, and there are – let’s be polite and call them the ‘others’ – for whom this is about something different altogether. This battle needs to be fought and won quickly, so that on the Welsh Government’s upcoming trade missions to India and Japan we can give investors the certainty they have a right to expect.”