Selling Wales to the world as St David's Day nears

First Minister Carwyn Jones
Image caption 'The UK itself will have to change quite fundamentally over the next two years...." - Carwyn Jones at Lancaster House.

Lancaster House is rarely off our screens these days. The mansion, build for the (Grand Old) Duke of York has doubled up as Buckingham Palace in the Netflix series The Crown and was Theresa May's venue of choice for her big Brexit speech.

On Monday, it hosted (on behalf of the first minister) a St David's Day reception for diplomats, politicians and business people as part of a week of events to sell Wales to the world.

Carwyn Jones told his audience that although he still believed Wales would be better off inside the European Union, his government had been clear it would respect the democratic decision of last June's referendum.

"We know that we have to establish new ways of working," he said. "But it is absolutely crucial for us in Wales that we maintain access to the single market on the same terms as now. Nothing else comes close in terms of importance."

'Challenges'

He spoke of "great challenges for the UK" in preserving its own single market and the need for "the UK itself to change quite fundamentally" to address the issues raised by Brexit.

He added: "From the late 19th century, when Wales became the world's first industrialised nation, we've been an outward looking nation.

"The Welsh Government has offices in Japan, Dubai, China, India, US, Dublin and Brussels, as well as here in London. We have a long record of trade and investment and we embrace the world and its horizons."

'Think globally'

Among the guests, Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns spoke of the importance of "Wales Week in London". "It's really where we open the attention of Wales to the London media, to the London business community, but we use that as a springboard internationally as we leave the European Union there has never been a more important role for Wales and London to look outside.

"We have a habit in Wales of looking internally at so many local affairs. This is the time to think globally."

'Front of queue'

Carwyn Jones told the BBC that trade would be more difficult but "as long as we can still sell on the same basis as we can now there is no problem".

He added: "No one is saying to us 'we're not coming'. Some are saying 'Well, we want to wait and see what's happening with the UK before we take a final decision'. It's hugely important that when they take those decisions that Wales is seen at the front of the queue."

His guests went home with bara brith chocolates and Welshcakes. The first minister flies to the United States on Tuesday to sell his message in Washington and New York.