Wales

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns 'encouraged' by business response

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Media captionAlun Cairns gave his reaction after the meeting in Cardiff

The Welsh Secretary has held the first in a series of meetings with business leaders to reassure them after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

"We are determined to address their concerns and make the new settlement work," Alun Cairns said.

He set out the UK Government's plans for a specialist EU unit to tackle complexities like trade treaties.

Mr Cairns said he was "hugely encouraged" by the optimism businesses showed at the meeting.

Mr Cairns, who backed Remain, said he wanted to explain that there was a clear plan in place.

But he said he wanted to listen too and said he was encouraged when he heard phrases like "business as usual" and "entrepreneurs thrive on change".

He said he wanted to ensure the best deal for Wales.

"We are in the early days of a momentous move for the UK. I am in Wales to reassure business and council leaders that we are determined to address their concerns and make the new settlement work.

"The Welsh economy is now a thriving and dynamic one, with more people than ever in work and many coming from overseas to our high performing universities.

"My priority is to ensure we maintain this success and manage our transition to the new arrangements in a calm and measured way."

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Wales exported £1.5bn more to the European Union in 2014/15 than it imported from it, which the CBI says gives it a "significant trade surplus" as a nation.

Emma Watkins, director of CBI Wales, said business was looking for leadership, confidence and certainty for the markets.

"We want a good new settlement on the single market, whatever happens, we're conscious we want to play a part in that and want genuine partnership as well," she told BBC Wales.

"We were reassured the Welsh Secretary is at the table having the conversations with the Prime Minister at the highest level. That leadership is being demonstrated.

"He heard the messages we have about importance of certainty and confidence but also the need to get spades in the ground to show we can still do things in Wales.

"We're reassured that message has got through and that communication will continue."

'Stable'

But she said there were some real short term concerns about the strengths of the pound, what happens to migrant labour, and medium concerns about regulation and businesses' ability to trade.

On the issue of businesses who use migrant workers, Mr Cairns said the UK was still a "full and active member of the EU" so migrants working here continued to be welcome for at least two years and any business from the Wales sending employees to Europe was still able to benefit.

"What was also encouraging from this meeting was the request not to rush to invoke Article 50 - effectively starting the untangling process - they wanted us to prepare ourselves for that negotiation.

"So I can tell people for at least two years and seemingly beyond that there's opportunity of getting ourselves in a strong position as well as untangling our position so Wales can continue with the most stable position possible."

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