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 (H)unt 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.”
Double acquisition as Certas Energy acquires two Pembrokeshire filling stations
CERTAS ENERGY has added two West Wales fillings stations to its growing company portfolio with the acquisition of Square & Compass and Letterson Filling Stations, both formerly owned by Roger and Anne Shackleton.
The couple have operated their Pembrokeshire forecourt business for 22 years, its two Gulf branded forecourts are integral to the local community, with large and successful convenience stores and a combined fuel volume of 5.6ml.
“We are delighted to have concluded this deal, it’s a very good fit for our business as we continue to grow our company operation across the UK,” enthuses Richard Billington, Retail Director, Certas Energy. “We already have a strong Gulf presence within Pembrokeshire and these two flagship sites will complement our thriving and expanding Dealer operation.”
“Anne and Roger have put their heart and soul into their business and its standing within the locality is testament to their hard work and that of a very talented team, whom we look forward to working with. We’ll bring the sites into harmony with the rest of our company-owned operation, investing in the latest back-office technology and on-site facilities to future proof the business. We will also remain true to the values established by the Shackletons to be at the heart of the local community.”
The two forecourts currently employ 20 people. They are seven miles apart, both situated in the town of Haverfordwest. Dave Morris, Director at specialist business property adviser, Christie & Co, acted on behalf of owners Anne and Roger and comments; “The two forecourts presented a great opportunity for a buyer as they are in a good location and well regarded locally. It has been a pleasure to work for Anne and Roger who have been passionate fuel retailers for over 20 years and we wish them all the best with their retirement. Both sites are a good fit for Certas Energy and we look forward to seeing them transition into Certas’ company owned portfolio.”
Reflecting on his departure from the business, Roger Shackleton says: “We have fantastic staff and a successful business that has been nurtured to the needs of our community. I’ve loved every minute of the ever changing environment of forecourt and convenience retailing. I still get up every morning at 4am to prepare for the day ahead but now seems the right time to retire. Certas Energy and Gulf Retail are better suited to unlock the future potential and get the very best out of our two sites. It’s a very emotive time for us both, we regard our staff as family but we know they are in good hands. The Gulf team are genuine, the process has been relatively smooth and David Morris of Christie and Co. has been brilliant, working tirelessly keep the deal progressing and to get us to this place.”
“When we drive past the sites in the future, we may feel saddened that we are no longer at the helm but in Gulf Retail, we are happy that we have sold to the right people.”
This latest acquisition by Certas Energy increases its company portfolio to 35 sites as it continues to grow the Gulf network in size and scale.
Fuel family’s final farewell
IT WAS an emotional farewell at two north Pembrokeshire filling stations this week as the popular owners Roger and Anne Shackleton handed the reigns over to new owners Certas Energy, Britain’s largest independent distributor of fuels and lubricants.
After 22 years, Roger and Anne are looking forward to a more relaxed life on their farm, and to see more of their family, they told The Herald.
In 1997, the couple sold their pedigree herd and bought Letterston Filling Station. In 2007 Square and Compass Filling Station was purchased and plans were made to rebuild the shop into a convenience store to serve the neighbourhood. They were able to provide a wide range of goods and competitive fuel prices over a long period at both sites, an important resource for the local community in both cases.
Roger and Anne said in a statement: “We would like to thank our suppliers, and the loyal and long-standing customers for their support over the years. A final thank you goes to the staff, past and present that have helped make the business what it is today.
They added: “We would like to extend our best wishes to Certas Energy for success in the future with both Letterston and Square and Compass Filling Stations.”
What makes Wales special?
THIS MONTH sees Visit Wales’ first ever targeted digital campaign happening in Wales. It will encourage those with arguably the best knowledge of all, the people of Wales, to share images of the places that they love and how they enjoy them.
There is also an opportunity to be featured in Visit Wales’ ads, as a selection of the best images shared on social media will be part of the next phase of the campaign.
The Year of Discovery is the perfect time to re-discover places from childhood, or discover a new corner of Wales.
Visit Wales would like as many people as possible to get involved. What makes Wales so special? Where do you like to spend your weekends in Wales? Where’s your favourite beach, pub or dog walk? These special moments in Wales can be captured by tagging #thisismywales on your Instagram or Pinterest posts.
The in-Wales market is especially important to Wales. In 2017 there were 1.47m overnight stays by Welsh residents staying in Wales. That is 16% of all overnight trips taken in Wales by GB residents, and these trips generated £228 million for the Welsh economy.
In addition, there were 62 million tourism day visits taken in Wales by Welsh residents. This is 63% of all day trips taken in Wales. The expenditure on these trips was £2.21 billion.
Dafydd Elis Thomas, the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “This is an excellent time for the people of Wales to share what makes Wales special to them – it’s all about pride and passion and the people of Wales are often the best ambassadors and travel guides to what can be found locally.
“It’s possible that Brexit uncertainty means that more people will take a staycation this year. A targeted and flexible digital marketing campaign means that Wales is well placed to make the most of these opportunities.
“Marketing work has been gathering momentum since early March in key markets in recognition of the strong competition for the domestic market – so that Wales is front of mind as a holiday destination during our Year of Discovery.
“As part of a refreshed visitwales.com, celebrities such as Alex Jones, Matthew Rhys and Huw Stephens have already shared their favourite things about Wales.”
Brexit delay affects hauliers
THE GOVERNMENT and the EU have agreed on an extension of the UK’s membership until October 31, 2019, at the latest.
This means you can continue to operate across the EU as usual until then.
While the Government hopes to leave before then, we will only leave earlier if a deal is agreed, which would allow continued permit-free access arrangements to continue.
This means that either:
• The UK leaves the EU without a deal on October 31, 2019; or
• The UK leaves the EU with a deal, before October 31, in which case, access to the EU will remain unchanged until 2021.
So until October 31 at the earliest, you can continue to operate across the EU as you do now, without the need for an ECMT permit.
The EU has also passed a new law ensuring that, even if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31 October, more than 90% of journeys to the EU won’t require an ECMT permit for the remainder of 2019.
Regardless of when the UK leaves the EU, you must register any trailers you plan on using for journeys outside the UK and Ireland.
This new requirement came into force on March 28, 2019.
If you fail to register your trailer, you may be fined or subject to other enforcement action.
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