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A cautionary Brexit tale

Image: Duncan Hull

Everything seems to be going wrong for Britain’s Tory government since the loss of the Brexit referendum and the resignation of David Cameron.  The coronation of Theresa May was supposed to usher in a new era of strength and stability.  Instead it has brought vacillation and U-turns, a disastrous general election and most recently the car crash of a leader’s speech at the Tory Party conference.

With the Brexit negotiations running into a brick wall, and with economists, central bankers and industrialists warning of the grave consequences of a “hard Brexit,” the Tories desperately needed to put some positive spin on a future in which Britain crashes out of the European Union without a trade deal and without firm trading agreements with the wider world.

So it was that Welsh Secretary and one time casual racist Alun Cairns set off for a photo opportunity visit to the headquarters of Concrete Canvas near Pontypridd.

The company, which makes a concrete infused canvass that turns to hard concrete when sprayed with water, does 85 percent of its trade outside the European Union.  Clearly, if anyone is going to lead the way to a prosperous post-Brexit future, it would be a company like Concrete Canvas.

It didn’t quite work out that way for the hapless Cairns, however.  As BBC Wales report:

“A firm visited by Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns to highlight opportunities after Brexit has called leaving the EU a ‘bad move’ and not ruled out moving if there is no UK trade deal with Brussels.”

Indeed, Peter Brewin, a co-founder of Concrete Canvas pointed out that it is trading inside the EU that had enabled the firm to grow at the rate it has done:

“All the current trade arrangements that rely on us being a member of the European Union would potentially fall away unless other arrangements were put in place in the meantime.

“It would also have a direct impact on our ability to trade with Europe, which is our closest and currently the easiest place for us to trade in the world…

“Looking at it objectively, I think leaving the European Union is a very bad move.”

So much for the supposed optimistic view of post-Brexit world trade that was supposed to correspond to the launch of Theresa May’s “Independent Trading Nation vision of a post-Brexit UK.

No doubt there are a few industrialists who back Brexit.  But it is a measure of the meltdown within the Tory Party that nobody had the foresight to check whether Peter Brewin was one of them before packing their Welsh Secretary off Pontypridd to meet with him.  Or maybe they just couldn’t find a single Welsh business representative with a good word to say for Brexit.  In which case, Cairns would have been better off staying in London.

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