It is always a pleasure to follow my neighbour David T. C. Davies. I hope that he and I will agree on the principle of the importance of investing and creating jobs in the heads of the valleys.
Economic development will be the focus of my remarks, and we have seen good news in recent days. Yesterday, on St David’s Day, the Cardiff capital region city deal was signed, which is clearly good news for south-east Wales. However, there are also concerns about Ford workers in Bridgend, which underlines—if there is any need to—the need for a coherent strategy from the UK Government for the years ahead. Whether people voted leave or remain in last year’s referendum, nobody voted to become poorer. We must ensure that structural funding continues beyond 2020. Foreign direct investment, which was at a 30-year high last year, must continue, and the Welsh Government deserve great credit for continuing to attract such investment to Wales. Steel, which is a foundation industry, must also be central to Wales’s economic future.
The priorities are both immediate and long term. Immediately, we must secure tariff-free access to the single market. Indeed, the Welsh Government’s “Securing Wales’ Future” document, which was produced together with Plaid Cymru, sets out the importance of participation in the single market, and a balanced migration policy, given that over two thirds of Welsh exports go there.
In the longer term, we need a vision of what a post-Brexit Wales should look like. The European Union currently has more than 50 free-trade arrangements, which will clearly need replacing. The Brexit White Paper produced by the UK Government contains a chapter on “Securing new trade agreements with other countries”. It has 19 paragraphs, but there is no mention whatsoever of Wales’ position or the Welsh perspective on such trade agreements. However, that same document sets out that some of the fastest growing export markets between 2005 and 2014 were places such as China, South Korea, Brazil, and Mexico. The UK Government must work with the Welsh Government, which already have 14 overseas offices ready to assist with the creation of new trade agreements.