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Opinon: Matthew Paul

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EU Referendum

Well, you did it, you bastards. You won. At 11pm today, the UK will have left the European Union.


This hasn’t occasioned the cataclysm that –until 13 th December– the turbulent Brexit process might have led us to expect. The weeks since Boris Johnson’s thumping majority made Brexit an inevitability have been an anticlimax on the scale of The Godfather Part III.


Three and a half years of high political drama have ended in six weeks of Brexit bathos.


On Wednesday, our representatives in the European Parliament packed up their desks, emptied their lockers and –heavy of heart and misty of eye– signed off their final, Brobdingnagian claims for expenses. Pro-EU MEPs linked arms, waved EU flags and sang a maudlin rendition of Auld Lang Syne. In return, EU president Ursula von der Leyen told the UK she loved us and always will.


The love-in lasted about three minutes, until Nigel Farage, flanked by his gang of gruesomes, stood up to crow. In the graceless and disruptive manner he has diligently maintained over twenty years in the Parliament, Nigel rubbed fellow MEPs’ noses in the Brexit Party’s mess until the mike was switched off. Then his cohort started waving little Union flags so
enthusiastically you might have assumed Prince Harry had come back. Divorced.


The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 passed through Parliament without a murmur of disapproval, a court case, any perversions of Parliamentary procedure or even a self-indulgent ORRRRDDEEEEEERRRRR from the excellent and austere new Speaker,
Lindsay Hoyle. At sundown, EU flags will be taken down from public buildings around the UK and furled forever, in a melancholy echo of the last time Britain’s influence in the world seriously declined. All except in that bastion of Brexit resistance, the Scottish Parliament, where Nicola Sturgeon –under what legal authority it is unclear– has decreed that the
twelve stars will stay put. Mark Francois no doubt imagines himself jogging up to Edinburgh with a crack TA troop to tear it down from Holyrood in a reverse Iwo Jima.


South of Hadrian’s Wall, the mood amongst Remainers is one of defeated realism. Re- joining on the terms available to accession countries is not a serious option; the EU has gone and it ain’t coming back. Even Plaid Cymru –after getting utterly pasted in December’s election, largely because their ur-Remainy stance went down like a cup of cold sick in the valleys– aren’t clinging to dreams of readmission to the continental club.


Now, having got your damned Brexit, you now have to work out what to do with the thing.

What was the point of leaving the EU? There are some fairly compelling reasons to be out of Europe if you incline to the Corbynite hard left, because the Commission always had unhelpful things to say about confiscatory taxation and state aid for lame duck nationalised industries. Get Brussels out of the way and you are only a few strands of barbed wire and an
empty supermarket away from the usual sort of socialist paradise.


On the right, the intellectual arguments of economically liberal Brexiters have always had force. There can and will be advantages to an economy where barriers to free trade are removed, where business is freer to hire and fire, and where innovation in our tech, pharmaceutical and agri-business sectors is not restrained by regulation which adheres too closely to the precautionary principle. Intellectual arguments are all very well, but the difficulty is that this hasn’t typically been the kind of economy or society around which a political consensus has settled.


Before the General Election, in a political landscape where a powerless Prime Minister was bossed around by a hopelessly divided Parliament, it was hard to expect that much could be achieved by leaving the European Union. Now, we have a PM more powerful than any British politician since Tony Blair in 1997; with just as much of a mandate to change the country.

To benefit economically from Brexit, he will have to be prepared to do things that are very, very unpopular.


Round these parts, things that damage the livelihoods of farming communities are likely to be pretty unpopular. But this week we saw Boris inviting a stampede of half-starved, flystruck Ugandan cows into the UK meat market. “I have just told President Museveni of Uganda” he said –following a conversation quite different from the sort of Ugandan
discussions with which our Prime Minister is usually associated– “that his beef cattle will have an honoured place on the tables of post-Brexit Britain.” What is good news for herdsmen around Kampala won’t be so well-received in Knighton, Keswick or Kirkaldy.


Boris will also have to decide whether we are a country closer to Europe or America. If we choose the latter, and unless the US Democratic Party seriously ups its game, we will be saddled with another four years of having The Donald as our psychopathic cell mate in a prison we built for ourselves. It’s in our interest to keep him happy, but this week’s decision to allow Huawei –the tech equivalent of coronavirus– to supply hardware for Britain’s 5g mobile networks was like carelessly reaching for the remote control in the middle of one of Trump’s favourite TV shows. There are worrying noises coming from the top bunk, as of someone sharpening a shiv to use on us in the first round of post-Brexit trade talks.


So, residents of workless Labour-voting constituencies in South Wales; farmers who didn’t like filling in the subsidy forms; anyone who hates being bossed around by foreigners but doesn’t count Donald Trump amongst their number. You voted for it. You got it. It’s here.


Enjoy it; it’s going to be a wild ride.

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Carmarthenshire students congratulated on A / AS level results

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CONGRATULATIONS to students across Carmarthenshire who are celebrating their A and AS level results.

Despite an extraordinary year and very challenging circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic, students have been rewarded for all their hard work.

A total of 98.6% of A level students in Wales achieved A* – E grades and there was also a small increase in the number of students awarded A* with 10.8% of learners receiving this grade.

At AS level, 22.2% of all grades awarded were A in Wales this year; and 91.4% of candidates achieved A* – E grades.

The results are broadly similar to previous years according to the WJEC, despite no examinations being held.

Education Minister Kirsty Williams yesterday (August 12) announced that a student’s final A level grade cannot be lower than their AS grade. This means some students may have to wait for revised grades to be reissued by the WJEC.

The commitment and dedication shown by students in Carmarthenshire has been praised by Carmarthenshire County Council’s education chiefs.

They are also commending teaching staff who this year with the cancellation of the summer examinations, have had to produce assessment grades based on a range of evidence such as classwork, homework, mock exams and non-exam assessments.

Cllr Glynog Davies, Executive Board Member for Education, said: “I would like to congratulate all our students on their AS and A level results; all their achievements and hard work has paid off and they are well prepared for their future goals and aspirations.

“It has been an exceptional year; however, it is important to remember that grades awarded this year are valued the same as in any other year and on behalf of the council, I would like to wish all our students every success for the future, whichever path they choose to follow.

“I also want to praise our schools for the high-quality support and guidance they give to our students which continues to impact positively on progress and standards. This year in particular, our teaching staff have had an even harder job, and we thank them for all their extraordinary effort.”

Director of Education and Children’s Services, Gareth Morgans, added: “Our students should feel very proud of their achievements. These results reflect their positive work ethic and dedication to their studies, and they can now progress with confidence to continued education, training or employment. I would like to sincerely congratulate them on all on their success.

“I would also like to thank our schools, our inspirational teachers and all our hard-working staff for all that they do to support and develop our students and prepare them for their future studies and careers. These results are testament to all their work and commitment.”

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Burry Port RNLI Malfunction On Recovery vehicle

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A busy and eventful weekend at Burry Port RNLI, with a major mechanical failure on one of our launch vehicles, we were tasked to six serious incidents on Saturday evening, a major equipment recovery on Sunday, with a few minor incidents occurring when recovery was complete.Starting Saturday, at 5.30 pm we were tasked for both boats to assist in a major search for a missing swimmer in Rhossili Bay area of the Gower. Both boats were launched and quickly on their way, when a major failure occurred on our County Tractor launch and recovery vehicle, left it in 6 foot of water, undriveable, with a fast incoming tide, with the recovery trailer still attached. Our driver had made a safe evacuation from the vehicle and was unhurt. Both boats arrived on scene at Rhossili and the swimmer was found safe and well, so both boats returned to Burry Port.


The decision was made to abandon the Tractor and trailer, anchor and bouy them for safety. At this point we received another tasking from Milford Haven UK Coastguard, for a missing person with 2 children, last seen in the water at Pembrey Country park Beach. A search was commenced, but the 3 casualties were again found safe and well, so both boats returned to Burry Port.


Whilst continuing to make safe our stricken vehicle, our Atlantic 85 lifeboat was re-tasked to search for 2 persons, cut off by the fast incoming tide at Worms Head on the Gower. The lifeboat arrived very quickly on scene, located the 2 casualties, and took them to the safety of the beach, handing them to the Rhossili Coastguard team.

At this point, a group of people were seen on the sandbank at Pembrey old Harbour, completely cut off by the tide, so our smaller D class ILB was sent to pick them up and ferry them to safety, and handed them to Burry Port UK CG team.Our Atlantic Lifeboat was moored in the harbour overnight, as we had no recovery vehicle, and our D class was recovered and stored for the night.

By 9.00am Sunday morning, a specialist recovery team and vehicle were en route to Burry Port, and a spare tractor was also despatched.Sunday was spent planning and preparing for the recovery, with low tide at 4.45 pm, both lifeboats were placed in positions to be used if called on, and at 3.00pm the recovery operation began, with the Tallus caterpillar tracked recovery vehicle, and the RNLI specialist team, and some assistance from our D class lifeboat crew, the stricken vehicle was recovered at 4.15pm, replaced by the replacement vehicle and both lifeboats were made available for service.

Minutes later the D class was assisting people trying to cross from a sandbank to the Lighthouse, and then to a vehicle bogged down in soft sand, before all boats, trailers and vehicles were back in the safety of the Lifeboat Station.Grateful thanks to the RNLI team, and the transport driver who replaced our stricken vehicle with a serviceable tractor. Great respect to all our team, who even in adverse conditions and problems, still managed to carry out all their taskings, and assist in the recovery of the vehicle. A great team effort.

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Four Welsh charities will receive a share of £1.2 million charity fund from ScottishPower Foundation

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Four charities in Wales will receive a share of a £1.2 million funding pot from the ScottishPower Foundation, which champions benevolent work across the country.

Applying to the Foundation for funding is highly competitive each year. The charities that are successful in securing funding show passion, skill and commitment to making a positive change in their communities. 

From education programmes to art projects, the fund will enable projects across Wales to deliver philanthropic work, supporting thousands of beneficiaries.

Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, which runs the Llanelli Wetland Centre in Carmarthenshire, has been awarded £100,000 for its ‘Generation Wild’ project to offer thousands of children across the UK with the opportunity to experience and interact with wildlife and the surrounding habitat. The programme will work with 15,000 children from disadvantaged communities, their teachers, and families to develop a life-long love of the natural world.

Bangor University (Reaching Wider North and Mid Wales partnership) will also benefit from the funding for its innovative ‘Bright Sparks’ programme. It combines education and theatre in the classroom to inspire a love for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). Working with Theatr Clwyd, Welsh students will learn about a variety of subject areas from ‘Professor Sparky’ and her nephew ‘Eric’ who is trying to pass his exams. The sessions will focus on the environmental benefits of Low Carbon Technologies.

Nightingale House Hospice in Wrexham has been awarded a grant of £25,000 to support its vital work in Wrexham for both patients and the local community.

Cardiff-based Size of Wales will use funding to encourage conversations on climate change among young people in Wales. The project will return with its ‘MockCOP’ initiative for 14-18 year-olds, which is similar in style to a United Nations discussion. It will give young people a platform to speak out on climate change and empower them to feel that they can be part of the solution.

Melanie Hill, Executive Officer and Trustee at the ScottishPower Foundation, said: “At the ScottishPower Foundation, we’re passionate about supporting causes that really make a difference for communities, committed to fighting climate change, and dedicated to helping young people achieve their full potential for a brighter future. The charities we’re funding this year do all of that – and more – carrying out exceptional work, often in challenging circumstances, as they strive to make lives better.

 “We recognise that now, more than ever, people are relying on charities and their services and we’re very proud to support these efforts in such a meaningful way. We’ll continue to work closely with our charity partners to help maximise the impact of our ScottishPower Foundation funding to achieve the best possible outcomes for people and communities across the UK.”

Mark Stead, National Formal Learning Manager at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, said: “We are delighted to have secured this funding. My childhood was filled with splashing in streams and climbing trees. Very few of today’s children have these experiences and we are in danger of raising a generation of young people that have become disconnected from the natural world.

“This disconnection is felt even more keenly among disadvantaged communities and at WWT we believe that nature is for everyone, irrespective of their background. This funding will enable us to reconnect some of those in society who need it most with nature, boosting their mental wellbeing whilst helping to create a new generation of conservationists.”

The ScottishPower Foundation was established in 2013 to make a significant and lasting contribution to society, enhancing the lives of people living in communities throughout the UK. It provides funding to help support the advancement of education, environmental protection, arts and culture and citizenship. It also supports charities who aim to provide relief from poverty, disability, or other disadvantages.

The full list of this year’s funding recipients are:

·         Kidscape Campaign for Children’s Safety

·         Changing Faces

·         South Tyneside Churches KEY Project

·         Inter Madrassah Organisation

·         National Theatre of Scotland

·         Youth Connections

·         The Customs House

·         Starcatchers

·         Nightingale House Hospice

·         Bangor University (Reaching Wider North and Mid Wales partnership)

·         The Literacy Pirates

·         Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust

·         Bendrigg Trust

·         The Movement for Non-Mobile Children (Whizz-Kidz)

·         Acorns (North Tyneside)

·         Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland

·         Dynamic Earth Charitable Trust

·         Size of Wales

·         The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

·         Bumblebee Conservation Trust

·         Sporting Memories Foundation Scotland

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