BARONESS Eluned Morgan AM the Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language has said that it is her and the Welsh Labour Government’s aim to make Wales ‘less poor’.
The Labour AM visited Llanelli on Thursday, (Jan 24) to meet with Labour colleagues at Llanelly House.
We began by asking the Minister about the issue of Brexit and we asked why the Welsh Government is insistent on reneging on the will of the Welsh people who voted to leave the EU?
Baroness Morgan responded: “With Brexit we don’t want people to think that Wales is turning its back on the world. We don’t want to look like we are insular. We want to look like we are engaged in the world. We understand in places like Llanelli how important that relationship is. We have international companies here and we need to make sure those relationships are strong and they look to the future.”
Speaking about the potential implications of Brexit for Wales Baroness Morgan said: “The first thing is we can’t afford to lose the European Market. The last thing we want is to see that collapse because that means jobs will go from here.”
Asked if she believed people would vote to remain if there were to be a second vote Baroness Morgan replied: “People made a judgement on what was going on. I think they have a lot more information now. They have understood that we can’t simply leave and everything will be fine. There will be consequences. I think it is important that people understand that we can’t just sever those relationships. We have seen one company from Llanelli cite the fact that Brexit is happening as the reason why they are closing here in Llanelli. That I hope won’t happen to too many other companies. There are companies who are dependent on ‘just in time delivery’ and if you get problems on the borders because people need to check then that whole system starts to collapse and we really don’t want to see that happen.
“At the moment we don’t know what is happening. What people have seen is an absolute mess going on in Westminster. We don’t want to see that continuing. People need stability, they need security if they are going to invest. At the moment that’s just not happening because people don’t know what the future holds. We want to see this settled and it’s not going to be easy to do that. The last thing we want to see is for us to drop off a cliff to see the end of March with no deal. That would be chaos.”
We asked Baroness Morgan how the Welsh government is going to support local people in business, such as small firms who may depend on exports or attracting European or other investment from around the world? Baroness Morgan replied: “One of the things I am keen to focus on is export. There are loads of really great companies in Llanelli that perhaps haven’t thought of export because they think it’s a different country or we don’t know how it works, we don’t know how the tax systems work, we don’t know what the rules are going into that market. The Welsh Government has a lot of support for that.”
Setting out some of the help available Baroness Morgan said: “What we want to do is give them confidence and say look, this is the way to go. We want you to be exporting and we can hold your hand through that process. There is a lot of support for companies. If you look at things like apprenticeship schemes. Those companies can apply to get apprentices and their training will be supported by the Welsh Government. It’s not always about how you can shove money in pockets directly there are other ways we can help them. We do a lot of marketing in terms of trying to sell Wales. There is Wales generically and Carmarthenshire would have a role then in making sure that this particular area would be supported as well. We work in partnership not compete against each other.”
We asked the Minister if she was concerned that a lot of young talented people were leaving Wales and potentially creating a brain drain, which might impact on Welsh industry. The Minister responded: “I think what we would like to do is make sure we keep hold of local talent. I am someone who is keen to encourage people to go and see the world but I am very keen for them to come back and bring that knowledge and experience back with them. We do give support to incubator units and facilities and Carmarthenshire has a good record in this area. We are seeing a shift towards self employment and that is something that we need to be supportive of and there is a lot more support now in Business Wales for that sort of initiative.”
Turning our attention to local issues we asked: How is the Welsh Government going to help people in the tourism industry such as local hotels or even B & B’s? We pointed out that business rates are crippling for people in Llanelli and that some people are put off from starting up in business. We also asked about potential changes in planning laws, which might help people diversify. Baroness Morgan said that Wales had ambition and that; “There are new rules that have come in surrounding buildings. The Welsh Government have come in and said, actually we are open to the idea of innovative buildings for housing. That is quite a new and interesting initiative. We have to recognise that young people in particular do find it difficult to buy houses and its clear that we do need to build new houses. We have ambition to build 20,000 houses in Wales and we are on course to deliver and we are doing much better than they are in England. I think that is an area we need to be proud of, we are doing reasonably well.”
We asked Baroness Morgan what her priorities were in her new Ministerial role. She said: “In terms of my Ministerial responsibilities the main thing is making sure that we know what happens in terms of the fall out in Brexit. Making sure that the Welsh voice is heard around the world. That we give encouragement to exporters in Wales and that we grow the wealth of the Welsh economy. The main feature is how do we make Wales less poor. That is really the driving reason d’etre of most people the Labour party. Export is one way of doing it. Getting people to invest in Wales is the other. Those are my priorities.”