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  1. ITV Report

Cairns talks of "new, deep and special" EU relationship

Alun Cairns will try to rally Welsh Conservatives, after the election cost the Tories three MPs in Wales -and Theresa May her majority. Photo: PA
  • by Nick Powell

When Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns speaks to the Conservative party conference in Manchester this morning, he's expected to strike an optimistic note about Brexit, although he also wants close links with the EU to continue.

His visit at the weekend to Qatar was part of what the UK government describes as "a series of international missions taken by senior government ministers to showcase the UK’s commitment to forming even stronger global economic, investment and security ties as we prepare to leave the EU".

But Mr Cairns was careful to stress that he also expects the Brexit negotiations to achieve a deal that will preserve economic, investment and security ties with the European Union.

At a time when the UK is negotiating a new, deep and special partnership with the European Union, it is continuing to look outwards globally.

– Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns MP
Alun Cairns has just returned from Qatar, looking for new Welsh business opportunities. Credit: Wales Office

In this morning's speech, he'll complain about the objections to the EU Withdrawal Bill from the First Minister Carwyn Jones, who sees it as a Westminster power-grab, with the UK Government taking over the EU's powers in devolved areas such as agriculture and economic development.

Exiting the EU is a time when the nation needs to come together to secure the best deal for every part of the UK. Yet Labour in Wales are pursuing an agenda which aims to derail Brexit – when Wales voted leave. At a time when our economic interests need to be our priority, when we should be reaching out to new markets, securing new trading opportunities and increasing our exports, the First Minister is obsessed with process, bureaucracy and power.

– Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns MP

Tensions are high at this conference, after a General Election that cost the Conservatives their majority at Westminster. Many representatives are looking forward to Boris Johnson's speech on Tuesday at least as much as Theresa May's on Wednesday. Mr Cairns has the task of helping the Prime Minister to at least get through Monday's conference business unscathed.

The Welsh Secretary is expected to highlight what the UK Government is doing to help the Welsh economy, such as ending the tolls on the Severn Crossings.

After 50 years – just think, - no tolls, no booths, no charges and no long queues to get into Wales. This decision will immediately boost the economy of South Wales by over £100m a year. Equally important is that it brings the opportunity to bind the South West and Wales – to develop the Great Western Cities of Bristol, Newport and Cardiff. And last time I checked, we are still waiting for the Labour Party to welcome this landmark announcement.

– Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns MP

He will also controversially claim credit for Aston Martin's investment in a new plant at Saint Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan and the new daily flights between Cardiff and Qatar. They are both projects where Welsh Government ministers insist that they took the lead.