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Brexit: Revisiting Welsh village Cwm which voted Leave

By Selma Chalabi
BBC Eye on Wales

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image captionPeople in Blaenau Gwent voted to leave in the 2016 referendum

"Let's get on with" or "hoping for a good deal"?

As the UK leaves from the European Union - do those who voted in the referendum stand by their choices?

Following the 2016 referendum, Eye on Wales visited Cwm, which saw a big majority in favour of Leave.

Sitting just south of Ebbw Vale in Blaenau Gwent, Cwm is known as the "mile-long village" because of the road that cuts through it - Marine Street.

At one end Marine Colliery would have once stood. At the other, towards Ebbw Vale, the steelworks reigned supreme.

image captionMarine Street cuts through the village of Cwm

At its peak in the 1960s, when it was nationalised, the steelworks employed 14,500 people.

But it closed in 2002, and many say the villages and communities in this part of the world have never recovered.

In Blaenau Gwent, 62% of those who went to the polls chose to leave the European Union - and in the week Brexit is due to happen, I went back to speak to people in Cwm.

'I didn't want to be under European rules'

image captionJill Davies voted Leave and would do the same again

Jill Davies runs the breakfast club in Tirzah Baptist Church where people can come for a free hot meal and also take bags of food away.

She said there was a big demand for such a service in the area due to rising poverty. Jill voted Leave in the referendum and would still vote Leave if given the chance again.

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"I didn't want to be under European rules. Let's face it, we never really embraced it. I just felt that we only half took it on.

image captionJill runs a breakfast club in the village

"I know that people will say that we've had a lot of European funding but we've had to pay money in to have that funding, and the funding hasn't come in to the right things.

"But I just feel that we'll be better off outside the EU.

"I would never vote Conservative, but I do think Boris will take us out, and the first thing that we'd like to see is more permanent jobs in the area."

'I hope to goodness that we get a good deal'

image captionArthur Davies said his flock of ewes was established 70 years ago by his father

Arthur Davies is a hill farmer in Mantmoel on the hill above Cwm.

He has a flock of breeding ewes which he sells to lowland farms and he also rears some cattle.

He voted Remain in the referendum and would vote Remain again if he could.

"I hope to goodness that we get a good deal out of Europe.

"The government has got a good mandate to go ahead and get the deal done, as they said in the election.

"I'd like to see a deal that keeps the markets of Europe open. I think that's the best thing for farming. It's also the best thing for manufacturing.

"We've got to have trade deals now with the rest of the world, and they're not going to happen overnight.

"For farming to adjust to what's going to be coming in the ensuing years is going to be very difficult.

"Hill farming is especially going to be affected by short-term change, because it's a long-term business that we're in.

"This flock of ewes on the mountain right now was established 70 years ago by my father. It's something I've taken on and tried to improve in my lifetime.

"All that work could be negated overnight by a trade deal with another country to fetch cheap lamb which would make it impossible to keep stock on these hills."

'It's time for change'

image captionNatalie Jones, who works at Joe's Fish Bar, said there were no prospects in the area

Natalie Jones works part-time in Joe's Fish Bar in Cwm. The 33-year-old has three children, aged 10, seven and five months. Natalie voted Leave in the referendum and would do so again.

"There aren't any prospects in this area for young people.

"I'm looking to move, and have done for a while. My kids are in a marvellous school though.

"But there's just nothing around here - nothing for them.

"I don't know how leaving the EU will help but we need change.

"It hasn't been working here. For years and years and years it hasn't been working.

"It's time for change and if you keep voting for what hasn't changed, then it's not going to. I'm backing Boris.

"Either way it's going to be the same, but on the other hand, he could bring major change and we could thrive again.

"But we can't do any worse. I'd like Boris to come to the area and see how we're living and maybe he'd do a bit more. He needs to come and see."

'We've got nothing to lose by coming out'

image captionGareth Davies wants to "see prosperity again"

Gareth Davies, 66, worked in the steelworks for most of his life. He is the husband of Jill Davies, and a local councillor. He voted Leave in the referendum and would do the same again.

"I honestly believe we've got nothing to lose by coming out and everything to gain.

"I want to see prosperity again. I don't want our youth to move away. Blaenau Gwent to me is becoming somewhere to live and commute from.

"That's not giving people the ambition to stay and work in the area. That's what I'd like to see, and I think the way forward is by leaving the EU.

"We haven't got a vision and we need that vision. I'm not saying for one minute we can go back to industry - it's going to be new technology.

"We voted to leave - not pay Europe vast amounts of money. We've done enough of that.

"Let's get on with it."

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