Welsh industries react as UK and EU agree post-Brexit trade deal

  • Video report by ITV Wales' work and economy correspondent Carole Green

Businesses across Wales have reacted to news that the UK and EU have reached a post-Brexit trade agreement after prolonged negotiations.

Farmers, who had become increasingly concerned at the prospect of a no-deal, today expressed their relief that a "tragedy" has been avoided.

Wales' red meat industry in particular relies on exporting to the European Union - our biggest trading partner.

A spokesperson for Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), which represents the country’s vital lamb and beef sectors, called it a "good day" for Welsh food and farming.

HCC Chairman Kevin Roberts said: “Common sense has prevailed after four years of uncertainty for our farmers and exporters.

"We’re grateful to our European partners for sticking with us through this difficult time, as negotiations have gone right to the wire.

“A no-deal situation would have been a catastrophe for our sector."

Farmers' union NFU Cymru also said it was "relieved" that a deal has finally been agreed.

NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “We are relived that negotiators have been able to agree a deal and bring to an end the ongoing uncertainty surrounding out future trading relationship with the EU. Given the importance of the EU market to the Welsh farming sector, this deal is vital in maintaining trade with such a valuable export market.

“Whilst we welcome the deal that has been agreed today, we will now need to take our time to analyse and fully digest what has been agreed and the implications it has for our sector and NFU Cymru’s members."

But Mr Davies warned: “We also have to be realistic and remember that although today’s agreement will see tariffs and quotas eliminated on the trade in agri-food products between the UK and the EU, as a third country outside of the EU, our exports will be subject to procedures and controls which did not apply previously.

"These non-tariff barriers, as they are known, are a friction to trade and add to the cost of doing business. All efforts must be now be focussed on working together to find ways of minimising the impact of red-tape and non-tariff barriers on the movement of goods."

Wales exports huge amounts of lamb to countries in the European Union.

Manufacturing, from the car industry to aerospace, is also a sector of great importance to the Welsh economy.

The CEO of Airbus, Guillaume Faury, said: "Airbus welcomes the news that an agreement has been reached between the EU and UK.

"We are delighted to continue to work with our many stakeholders in the spirit of collaboration and long-term partnership."

Today's announcement of a UK-EU trade deal also brings reassurance to the construction industry.

But Britain’s small builders are already suffering the impacts of the delay, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “After the toughest of years, Britain’s builders will welcome the certainty that this deal appears to offer. Unfortunately, however, the deal will have come too late for many already feeling the effects of prolonged indecision.

“Nine in ten builders already face risings costs due to supply chain disruptions and higher product demand. We will wait to digest the detail, but this trade deal must deliver for builders by removing the barriers in their path to building back better and greener, be those access to products or skilled labour."

Meanwhile the Federation of Small Businesses called for targeted support for those navigating a new trading relationship with the EU.

FSB Wales Policy Chair Ben Francis said: “After such a torrid year, and during such a disrupted festive trading season, it’s a huge relief to see negotiators finally strike a deal.  

“The work of looking through the detail of the agreement to map out exactly what it means for the small firms that make-up 99% of our business community now begins.

“As well as going through the terms of access to each other’s markets, we are keen to see the Small Business Chapter that FSB has championed and encouraged both sides to include.

“Given the huge historic and future importance of EU markets to smaller Welsh exporters, this will be a relief and welcomed by those businesses which are also dealing with the huge pressures of coronavirus.

“What we need from here is tangible, targeted support, including £3,000 transition vouchers that small firms can spend on the training and advice required to navigate a new trading relationship. We also need to see clear and demonstrable joining of Welsh and UK Government efforts to support smaller businesses to adapt to this new relationship with our biggest export market.”  

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