A poll of business leaders in North East Wales has revealed a massive majority for scrapping Brexit and staying in the European Union.
An indicative vote at a meeting of Wrexham Business Professionals addressed by Welsh Government Economy Transport Minister Ken Skates showed 33 out of 52, or 63 per cent, in favour of revoking Article 50.
Twenty-one people at the meeting opted for a second referendum and 11 for a ‘soft’ Brexit with 10 backing Theresa May’s deal and just nine supporting an immediate crash out with no deal.
The group is made up of successful businesses and highly skilled professional firms of solicitors, accountants and other business professionals working together to raise the profile of enterprise and expertise that exists in the region and beyond
Mr Skates, who is also the AM for Clwyd South, told the event, hosted at the HQ of care organisation Pendine Park, that a no deal Brexit would have a similar effect to the 2008 financial crash and that should the UK leave Europe he would start campaigning on day one of the UK’s exit for a swift return to the EU.
He said that already two businesses looking to bring 1,200 jobs and millions of pounds of investment to North East Wales had shelved their plans at least in part because of Brexit.
They were Spanish train manufacturer TALGO with 1,000 jobs who pulled out with Brexit cited as a major reason and another advanced manufacturing company who had been expecting to employ 200 people in highly-paid roles.
He described a no deal Brexit as a catastrophe and said:
“The Welsh Government has consistently warned that a no deal Brexit poses significant risks to the Welsh economy and threatens the progress we have made in creating jobs and flourishing businesses.
“The EU have given a narrow window to avoid the catastrophe of no deal and it’s essential that Parliament now takes control and agrees an alternative strategy based on a softer Brexit or a public vote.
“There are, a quarter of a million SMEs (small and medium sized businesses) active in Wales employing almost 750,000 people and with an estimated annual turnover of £46 billion – many of these could be vulnerable to the impact of a no deal Brexit.
“Some businesses have been preparing for Brexit for some time – for those who haven’t let me be clear, now is the time to do so.”
The poll was prompted by a request from Sarah Haywood, a Director of manufacturers Clwyd Compounders Ltd, who have recently invested £9 million in a new factory on the Wrexham Industrial Estate.
“We manufacture rubber components and we are very heavily tied in to Europe because a lot of what we make is for British companies and lot of their customers are in Europe and a lot of our materials come from Europe.
“I am encouraged by the result of the snapshot poll here today but I find it very frustrating where we find ourselves today.
“We need to have a civilised conversation about Europe because there’s plenty wrong with the EU but it’s the best deal we’ve got and we’re better doing something about it from inside.”
Mr Skates added that the Welsh Government had launched a Business Resilience Fund in November which businesses could bid for between £10,000 and £100,000 of funding to support them through Brexit.
They had also just announced a further £1.7 million being allocated to the Fund while the Wrexham-based Development Bank of Wales was also standing ready to provide assistance.
Business Wales with 200,000 contacts was gearing up to significantly increase its business advice capacity with preparations under way, including a 24-hour hotline, to handle a large increase in Brexit-related enquiries.
The Business Wales Brexit Portal has had 35,000 visitors with over a thousand registrations on its Brexit Toolkit and he said:
“This is just one small part of a far wider business support network.
“We are ready to deploy Tiger Teams to businesses facing severe difficulty and a very significant redeployment of Economy and Transport officials is able to be made to support businesses directly.
“It is a tragedy that as we face Brexit we’re enjoying the strongest performance of the Welsh economy in many of our lifetimes with record employment, low unemployment, high economic activity, a record number of businesses in Wales and the business birth rate in Wales higher than the UK average.”