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Episode 3: Employment and Europe

Two of the biggest issues in this UK General Election are proving to be Europe and Employment.

Europe - or rather the UK's membership of the European Union - is something that divides opinion so sharply that it sometimes seems impossible to reach agreement.

On the one hand there are those who think being part of the EU is all about trade, jobs and aid. For others it's nothing more than an expensive, interfering bureaucracy.

The entrance to the Royal Oak Pub in Fishguard Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Where better to start looking into all this than in the place which saw the lowest point in Welsh-European relations: Fishguard, the site of the French invasion of Britain in 1797.

Fishguard harbour Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Beside some canon from the period, which overlooks Fishguard harbour, I spoke to local historian Edward Perkins who told me how significant and serious an invasion attempt it was.

It was a serious piece of military history, particularly from the French point of view in that they wished to invade the UK. They set up three expeditions one to the north of England that never got off the French coast, one that went all the way to Galway Bay in Ireland and never landed. And this one was supposed to go to Bristol and all on the basis that the people in England and the normal people would rise up, get after the aristocracy, overthrow the government and all they needed was French troops to help them.

– EDWARD PERKINS, Local Historian

In the town itself I meet Jacqui Scarr, who takes on the role of Jemima Nicholas. Jemima was the heroine of the invasion, reputedly tricking 1200 French troops into surrendering and personally capturing 12 with the aid of just her pitchfork!

Adrian Masters and Jacqui Scarr Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

These days Fishguard is now invaded twice as cars and lorries from all over Europe arrive to board the ferry to Ireland.

I spent time at the ferry terminal asking those waiting their views on the EU. To say they had strong opinions is anunderstatement!

From Fishguard, I travelled to Swansea to see work on Swansea University's new campus. Of the £450m the project is costing, around £100m comes from EU sources which is why supporters of our membership of the EU point to it as an example of what can be done with support from Brussels.

Building work at the new Swansea University Campus Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

My journey this week also takes me from the Rhondda Valleys to Port Talbot back to my home of Newport, and another journey from the past to the present.

Rhondda Heritage Park Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Former miner Ivor England showed me around the Rhondda Heritage Park, which was once the Lewis Merthyr Colliery and told me what it was like working in the industry, which dominated Welsh employment.

Filming at Rhondda Heritage Park Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Life was good, optimistic. There was a very very powerful miners’ union. And the miners’ union kept saying ‘things are getting better’ and they were getting better before my time. And there was an optimism. I don’t think that optimism is there now.

– IVOR ENGLAND, Former Miner
Filming at Rhondda Heritage Park Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

It no longer dominates of course, but you'd be mistaken if you think there's no heavy industry in Wales anymore.

I travel to Port Talbot where Tata Steel continues to be the area's biggest employer, somehow managing to survive in the face of immense global pressures.

But there's also a need to develop new, homegrown businesses.

Tiny Rebel Brewery Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Bradley Cummings and his brother in law started Tiny Rebel Brewery in Newport three years ago, as a hobby.

They brewed 80,000 litres of beer in their first year. Now it's up to 480,000.

They employ 10 people and export their beer to 9 different countries.

Filming at the Tiny Rebel Brewery Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

I visit their brewery to find out more about how they've done it, the help they've had and how others could emulate them.

We had a lot of help from various grants and funding for training even production equipment. That’s really really helped us succeed in what we have done here. The biggest thing I would say is do your homework, don’t rush into it. It took us two years to set the business up.

– BRADLEY CUMMINGS, Director of Tiny Rebel

Talking about the economy over a beer in a brewery: now that's my kind of political programme!

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