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.”
MPN Windows becomes Which Magazine Trusted Trader
FAMILY-OWNED MPN Windows, Doors and Conservatories has become a member of a prestigious national trade body and have also recently become accredited as a Which Magazine Trusted Trader.
Independent Network only accepts the country’s most professional window and door companies, and each one must undergo rigorous vetting before being allowed to join, and display the IN branding.
Companies like MPN must then agree to continuous auditing to ensure they maintain that same level of absolute professionalism.
Paul Webster, owner of MPN explained: “Independent Network imposes very strict criteria on its members; we must commit to using exceptional quality VEKA materials and every single one of our customers is given a customer satisfaction report to complete, which is sent directly back to the organisation – so they can make sure we are as good as our word when it comes to quality products and installations.
“In this way, IN can be sure that we continue to operate to the highest standards and they are happy to offer our customers a fantastic ten year insurance-backed guarantee.
“This provides complete peace of mind for customers. They can rest assured that their investment is safe and protected, and they can see – at a glance – that we carry the Independent Network logo, which signifies that we’re among the top VEKA fitters in the UK.
“We were award-winning members of the organisation for many years, back when it was known as Network VEKA, and then we changed PVC-U suppliers and were no longer eligible.
“Although the quality of our products was still good, we are so committed to customer satisfaction that we decided to make the move back to VEKA PVC-U so that we could rejoin the network and offer our customers all the benefits that go with it.
“Benefits include things like deposit protection, insurance-backed guarantees, finance options and a phenomenal choice of window styles and colours, to name just a few.”
At this family run business, MPN have managed to create a successful blend of 25 years’ experience in double glazing along with being an innovative online company. We offer our customers the opportunity to arrange a free home visit or get an instant quote all via our numerous digital channels including our website to facebook to whatsapp.
Independent Network’s Karen Lund said: “It’s been great to welcome MPN back to the organisation. The company has won numerous awards for customer satisfaction over the years, and we know that the team represent everything we want to see from an IN member.
“They are committed to quality, service and professionalism, and I’m sure we’ll see them win even more customer satisfaction awards in the years to come.”
New female brewing duo drop the alcohol but not the flavour
DROPPING the alcohol, not the flavour – that’s the mantra of The Drop Bear Beer Co. a new brewery that brings female chutzpah to the male-dominated world of brewing.
Founded in Mumbles earlier this year by ‘Melburnian’ Sarah McNena, and ‘Swansea Jack’ Joelle Drummond, Drop Bear’s non-alcoholic beer is already making waves.
A decidedly Welsh-Australian enterprise, the brewery’s quirky name has antipodean roots along with a personal connection for the couple, who met in Sarah’s native Australia.
Explains Sarah, “The Drop Bear is essentially a bit of fun Australians have with visitors. Tourists are told to look out for this mythical koala bear dropping on them from the trees – and Joelle fell for the joke too!”
The pair aim to ‘disrupt’ the traditional view of the non-alcoholic beer market, and have successfully produced 100% natural beverages that are below 0.5% ABV, vegan-friendly, low calorie, low sugar, and additive-free.
At 0.3 ABV Tropical IPA is – as its name suggests – ‘tropical, fruity, and sessionable’, while the 0.4 ABV Yuzu Pale Ale is ‘fruity, tart, and fresh’. They will be joined this autumn by Drop Bear’s stout which promises to be ‘dark, edgy, and packing a’tude.’
At 25 and 27 respectively, Joelle and Sarah are at the heart of the healthy lifestyle-conscious millennial market they want to capture.
Says Joelle, “We want to prove that real beer doesn’t need alcohol to have fun, and we aren’t scared to push boundaries. We are millennials, and they are the fastest growing demographic. They and we want something with more kick and excitement, and a brand they can relate to.”
Likewise, female empowerment Joelle says is at the core of Drop Bear’s ethos, and the pair are keen to champion women in what is a predominantly male-dominated arena.
“We are the only alcohol-free craft beer company in the UK that’s run by women.”
Local government project manager Sarah, and former French and Italian translator Joelle, began their brewing journey in their kitchen.
Apart from Sarah having previously made some homebrew, the pair were complete novices when it came to creating a craft beer – but they knew what they wanted to achieve.
Says Joelle, “We started with a big saucepan, a jam thermometer, and a load of grain and gave it a go!”
By trial and error “there were long nights and an exploding fermenter”, the pair eventually came up with recipes they liked – and enlisted the help of experts in the industry to ensure their beers would pass muster in the highly competitive brewing sector.
Explains Sarah, “As we don’t have a brewing background, we contacted a master brewer and sommelier who looked at our recipes and gave us advice.”
Only a couple of months into production and Drop Bear beers are already making significant in-roads with a Michelin-starred restaurant a customer, and the opportunity to showcase their beer at an event in the House of Commons. Also, the beers are available to buy online from www.drydrinker.com.
However, without the current capacity to brew on a commercial scale at home, for now, Drop Bear beers are produced in Yorkshire, but the plan is to bring the whole process to Wales as soon as possible.
Says Joelle, “We want to show what Wales and women have to offer in the brewing industry.”
Joelle and Sarah have been helped in their brewing adventure by Cywain – a Menter a Busnes delivered project that supports the development of growth orientated businesses in the food and drink sector in Wales.
Says Joelle, “Cywain has been great, especially with networking opportunities and advice on running the financial side of the business. They have run a number of workshops and 1-2-1 sessions covering a range of topics such as sales, distribution channels, and business health.
“All of this is provided free of charge, which I’m sure you can understand is key for a business in its early days. Cywain are also just generally lovely people and we look forward to attending a number of events with them in the near future!”
Says Cywain Development Manager, Nerys Adams, “”It’s been great working with Joelle and Sarah over the past couple of months and seeing massive progression in such a short space of time. The girls have taken full advantage of the support on offer from Cywain attending a finance surgery, a sales and marketing workshop to name but a few.
They are working very hard to establish themselves in a male dominated sector and I’m excited to see what happens next for them. I’m sure they’re going to make a great success of the business and I’m delighted that Cywain is playing a part in helping them achieve their ambitions”.
New funeral advice website will help Llanelli people make better funeral choices
INDEPENDENT funeral directors in Llanelli are supporting a nationwide digital consumer initiative to help people better understand the funeral process and avoid falling victim to rogue operators.
FuneralAdvice.org has been created by GE O’Driscoll and Daughters’ trade association the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) to provide non-promotional information about funerals.
The website is in response to consumer research by the Competition and Markets Authority, which highlighted a lack of public awareness about funeral options. Its aim is to help the public gain the knowledge it needs to make informed choices when it comes to saying goodbye to a loved one, in addition to signposting to aftercare and bereavement support groups.
Often a distress purchase, funerals are bought at a time when people are in an extreme emotional state and ill-equipped to make decisions about spending significant amounts of money.
Gemma O’Driscoll, principal funeral director at GE O’Driscoll and Daughters, said: “As an independent, family-run business, we know it’s important for funerals to be tailor-made for the families we serve. One of the first things those families seek from us is assistance and advice. People purchase funerals at a period in their lives when they are often ill-equipped to do so, and we therefore always try to provide precisely what people need at what is going to be a distressing time.
“Having information digitally and in one place means people will have access to a wide range of subjects, which they can study at a time which suits them. This initiative provides honest, straightforward advice in a simple and effective way, which can only be beneficial to people looking to make the most informed decision they can.”
Terry Tennens, Chief Executive of SAIF, said: “There is lots of information online about funerals but none of it sits in a central space. We think this makes it difficult for people to understand the funeral market. The aim of FuneralAdvice.org is to act as an impartial hub with simple, non-promotional information as well as a signpost service to other organisations that might be of assistance.”
He added: “We hope that as a result of the information on FuneralAdvice.org, the public will gain a better understanding of the funeral process and that when the time comes they are fully prepared in terms of knowing what they want and what questions to ask of prospective funeral directors. This will ensure more people are able to secure a funeral that meets their needs, in terms of style, elements and above all, cost.”
FuneralAdvice.org has been designed in a way which follows the funeral process, across five accessible sections:
1. ‘Arranging a Funeral’ covers topics including what to do when someone dies, funeral choices, coffins, vehicles, direct cremations and DIY funerals.
2. ‘Choosing a Funeral Director’ talks about shopping around, trade associations, care of the deceased and funeral plans.
3. ‘The Day of the Funeral’ lets people know what to expect when a funeral happens.
4. ‘After the Funeral’ talks about paying the funeral bill, complaints and family donations.
5. ‘Further information’ includes links to other organisations dedicated to providing a wide support to bereaved people, from emotional to financial.
FuneralAdvice.org will evolve over time as funeral trends change and new information becomes available. SAIF is happy to take approaches from third parties interested in collaborating on the site to include non-promotional information that will be of benefit to the public.
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