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Leaving the EU

Volume 630: debated on Wednesday 1 November 2017

8. What recent discussions he has had with Welsh business groups, universities and the Farmers Union of Wales on the effect of the UK leaving the EU. (901494)

Since the referendum, the Secretary of State and I have discussed the impact of the UK’s exit from the European Union in meetings with stakeholders across Wales. We have met businesses, universities and farming unions, among others, and the next meeting, the Secretary of State’s expert panel on EU exit, will take place on Monday.

I thank the Minister for his answer, but does my hon. Friend agree that this needs to go even further as negotiations with the EU continue? Will he encourage other Cabinet Ministers to come to Wales to hear the views of Welsh business, Welsh farmers and Welsh universities first hand?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He is a champion for the agricultural industry, which is no surprise in view of the constituency he represents. I can assure him that the discussions with the farming unions will intensify, and I am very pleased to announce that the Secretary of State for International Trade will be in Wales this week.

I am very pleased that the Prime Minister is here to listen to my question, because on a number of occasions I have asked her about the importance of the port of Holyhead in my constituency to Irish trade. Last week, a company from Ireland suggested a new route to Holland and Belgium, circumnavigating Britain. Stakeholders in my constituency are concerned about that. The Irish Government are concerned about that; so are the Welsh Government. When will the UK Government wake up?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about the port of Holyhead and the concern is shared by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, who visited the port with him. These concerns have been heard in the Wales Office; we have met stakeholders and Irish businesses. I can assure him that our intention is to ensure a frictionless border in Holyhead, in the same way as in Ireland.

EU students contribute upwards of £130 million to the Welsh economy, and thousands of academic staff from across Europe have been vital to the success of Welsh institutions. Given that we already know of an 8% decline in applications from EU students to Welsh universities, what discussions has the Minister had with Cabinet colleagues to ensure that visa arrangements do not further harm our higher education sector?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the universities sector in Wales. I recently visited Bangor University and Aberystwyth University and discussed these matters. I can assure him that the Wales Office is in constant discussions with other Departments on the issues raised by the sector, including EU visas.

I welcome the fact that the UK and devolved Administrations have agreed the principles on which the common frameworks will be constructed, which will be of particular interest to business groups, universities and the National Farmers Union of Wales. I encourage the Minister to continue these exchanges with the devolved Administrations, so that we can reach agreement on how the common frameworks should be established.

I agree with my right hon. Friend on how important it is to continue having deep engagements with farming unions and the universities sector in Wales.