Theresa May has no hard Brexit mandate, CBI Wales says

Engineering firm

The prime minister does not have a mandate for a hard Brexit, the chair of industry body CBI Wales has said.

Mike Plaut said the UK government must now put remaining in the customs union and access to the single market at the centre of European Union negotiations.

He also told BBC Wales that business has been sidelined by Downing Street and called for a change in approach.

The UK government said it was focusing on getting "the best deal from Brexit for the whole of the United Kingdom."

It follows the Conservatives losing their majority in the general election.

Mr Plaut also raised concerns about a potential deal between the Conservatives and the DUP, arguing it could damage Welsh businesses if it resulted in a special deal for Northern Ireland over Brexit.

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Media captionMike Plaut says pursuing a hard Brexit would make it difficult for business

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Have the UK's trade options changed?

Theresa May had previously outlined her plans to leave the single market and the customs union in order to negotiate trade deals with other countries and to control immigration.

A hard Brexit could involve the UK refusing to compromise on issues like the free movement of people, even if meant leaving the single market.

Mr Plaut said: "I'm hopeful we will see a slightly more business-friendly Brexit.

"I would love to see a customs union - we desperately need that in Wales, it would be even better if we kept the single market.

"We've got companies like Airbus and big companies which desperately need to be part of it. The practicalities of being outside it could be disastrous.

"Companies will move - they might not immediately but in time, unless we have a Brexit which is business-friendly."

He said businesses were "saying loud and clear" that hard Brexit would be disastrous.

A UK government spokesman said: "This is not a term that the government has ever used, and it is not helpful. What we're focusing on is getting the best deal from Brexit for the whole of the United Kingdom."

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Media captionMike Garland, director of M&J Europe, voted for Brexit

Mike Garland, director of engineering firm M&J Europe in Tredegar, who voted for Brexit, said the UK government should wait until it has certainty about its position before going into negotiations with the EU.

"We can't go in there half-armed, we should say to Europe you'll have to wait a month or two," he said.

"We have got to get the right deal for this country, so we have the benefits of working in Europe and we have to remember they need us as well - it's not a one way street."

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said if voters were "rushing to row back on Brexit" then there would have been a higher share of the vote for parties like the Lib Dems and Plaid, who had been arguing for membership of the single market.

"Certainly, the election results were not good for the Conservative Party, but more than 80% of voters backed the two parties pledging to deliver on the outcome of the referendum," he added.

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