Brexit: CBI Wales wants EU workers to be allowed to stay

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Media captionCBI Wales chairman Michael Plaut wants a pragmatic approach

Workers from the European Union should be allowed to stay after Brexit and trade barriers must be avoided, employers' body CBI Wales has urged.

It also said making sure England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland remained a single free trade area should be a priority.

It is writing to all Welsh MPs, MEPs and AMs to outline what firms need from EU negotiations, BBC Wales can reveal.

Latest figures show 67% of Welsh exports go to the EU.

Germany (24%) and France (16%) are Wales' biggest export markets, followed by the US (13%).

The letter is signed by chairman of CBI Wales, Michael Plaut, with the backing of the business organisation's ruling Welsh council.

This includes businesses such as Wales and West Utilities, Newport electronics company SPTS, Principality building society and property and investment management service JLL.

"We live in a globally competitive world and business in Wales must work hard to ensure that we are not hamstrung by a poorly thought-out and negotiated Brexit," the letter says.

"The economy of Wales is built upon the hard work and wealth creation of companies located here.

"We must ensure that the priorities of the business community in Wales are at the forefront of discussions on Brexit."

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Media captionJo Ashburner Farr, chief executive of Red Dragon Flags, said Brexit was an exciting time

The UK government is expected to trigger Article 50 on Wednesday, which will begin formal negotiations to leave the EU.

Prime Minister Theresa May visited Scotland on Monday to meet Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has been pushing for an independence referendum unless special arrangements are made.

There are also discussions around future trading relations between Northern Ireland, which like Scotland voted remain, and the Republic of Ireland.

Meanwhile, Brexit Secretary David Davis said a "sustainable" immigration system would take into account the needs of the NHS and different industries.

CBI Wales said there must be a level playing field between the four nations of the UK after Brexit.

Its four priorities for companies are:

  • Avoid trade barriers: The UK government must strike an ambitious agreement with the EU to ensure the UK avoids new barriers to trade and a smooth process as barrier-free entry to the EU single market is of fundamental importance to many businesses in Wales
  • Secure stability from day one: Business needs to know the rules and regulations they will be following the day the UK leaves the EU. Businesses in Wales require certainty in order to plan
  • Allow EU workers to stay: Firms in Wales employ thousands of people from the EU, they need urgent reassurances they will be able to stay. Long-term, it is important any new immigration system enables businesses to attract and retain the people they need
  • Protect the UK single market: The UK and devolved governments must work together to ensure they maintain an effective UK single market. A set of simple, common rules are essential in allowing firms to do business with ease and without complexity

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