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First minister stresses Welsh need for full access to single market

The Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones has stressed that Wales needs “full and unfettered” access to the European single market in order to retain investment in the country.

Jones’s comments came as he travelled to Norway to learn more about its links with the EU as UK ministers prepare to begin negotiations with the union over Brexit. He will spend the next three days meeting Norwegian firms and ministers responsible for trade and relations with the EU.

“Wales has attracted investment from hundreds of international companies on the basis of access to the single market,” Jones stressed.

“Failure to maintain full access, free of tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade post-Brexit could make sustaining and securing investment more difficult.”

While Norway is not an EU member and is exempt from rules on agriculture, fisheries, justice and home affairs, the country pays for full access to the European single market, accepts the majority of EU laws and allows EU citizens to live and work there.

Although Norway also has no say over how the rules of the single market are created due to its lack of EU membership, Jones stressed the importance of the single market to the country’s exports, saying that Wales needs “continued full and unfettered access to the European single market … first and foremost.”

“The UK is Norway's largest export market, accounting for 20% of the country's exports, while 80% of their total exports remain within the EU due to their access to the single market,” he said.

In November, Jones told AMs that maintaining access to the single market without extra costs was a more important issue than immigration, an assertion that brought criticism of wrong priorities from the leader of the Welsh Assembly’s Conservative group Andrew RT Davies.

Davies said that Jones needed to accept that immigration was a key factor in the vote for Brexit, disagreeing with the suggestion that the UK can have full market access and control immigration.

“It is widely accepted on both sides of the channel that you cannot have unfettered access to the single market without accepting the free movement of people,” Davies said.

“Yet the first minister is currently making access an absolute red line, whilst simultaneously claiming to accept the need for the repatriation of immigration controls. He cannot have his cake and eat it.”

Davies stressed that the Welsh government should focus on working with Westminster to achieve the best possible Brexit deal for Wales.

Last year the Welsh finance secretary Mark Drakeford sought reassurance from the government that Wales’ investment commitments would be guaranteed, saying that the country “must not lose a single penny” as a result of Brexit.

(Image c. Ben Birchall, PA Wire)

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Llewellyn   05/01/2017 at 11:16

Maybe Carwyn Jone might consider the views of the Welsh people, who voted to leave the EU, and thus respect the democratic process, rather than try to go against the will of the people he claims to represent, even if he personally disagrees? That would be novel for him.

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