Wales politics

'Brexit shock' threat to small firms, warns Plaid Cymru

Welsh flag and EU symbol

Small firms could be exposed to a "Brexit shock" due to Welsh Government inaction, a Plaid Cymru AM has warned.

Steffan Lewis accused ministers of only engaging fully with "anchor" companies on Brexit, while the Irish government had contacted more than 1,400.

He urged Economy Secretary Ken Skates to ensure Welsh businesses were prepared for a "worst-case scenario".

Mr Skates has said Brexit was a "major part of regular discussions with businesses right across Wales".

Mr Lewis, Plaid Cymru external affairs spokesman, is in Kilkenny in the Republic of Ireland for a meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly on Monday.

He said the economy secretary's replies to a series of written questions showed Welsh ministers were "sleepwalking to Brexit" and letting down small and medium-sized firms (SMEs).

"Sixty-seven percent of Welsh exports go to the rest of the EU, with a significant portion of those exports coming from Welsh SMEs," he said.

"It is scandalous that whilst the Irish government has engaged with over 1,400 client companies, the Welsh government has only engaged fully with anchor companies.

"This is leaving small and medium sized businesses in Wales exposed to a Brexit shock."

Image caption Steffan Lewis says help is needed to see businesses through "uncertainty and turbulence"

Mr Lewis said Mr Skates was "unable to provide data on how many businesses the Welsh Government has spoken to in order to provide Brexit support or how many Welsh companies are most exposed to the impact Brexit will have".

Accusing the economy secretary of a "wait-and-see approach", the Plaid AM called for a "full-scale engagement programme".

"The Welsh Government's current complacency is gambling with Wales' economy and our nation's future," he added.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We have been working closely with businesses of all sizes and from all sectors since the Brexit referendum.

"This engagement has also highlighted that many SMEs are focused on delivering their businesses in the here and now rather than worrying about what Brexit will bring when there is still so much uncertainty around the final deal.

"Rather than asking companies to complete forms to access support we prefer to take a proactive approach. This includes a comprehensive programme of support for SMEs and tailored advice, work shops and trade mission support for our exporters."

More on this story