Wales politics

Brexit will need immigration compromise, Carwyn Jones says

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Media captionCarwyn Jones says firms are "holding off" from investing due to uncertainty over Brexit

The UK will have to compromise with the EU over immigration to protect jobs in Wales, the first minister has said.

Carwyn Jones said a "trade off" would be necessary to avoid tariffs on businesses that trade with Europe.

He told AMs that maintaining "full and unfettered" access to Europe's single market without extra costs was a more important issue than immigration.

Meanwhile Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said the public needed clarity on Brexit from UK and Welsh ministers.

Mr Jones told the assembly's external affairs committee he was going in January to Norway - which is outside the EU - to see for himself how it complies with the single market's rule on the free movement of people.

Businesses 'holding off'

Brexit would involve "compromise" on freedom of movement for the UK, he said, adding that businesses had invested in Wales because they saw it as a "gateway" to the European market.

Giving evidence to the hearing in Cardiff Bay on Monday, he said: "For me, if I were to say to people on the doorstep 'do you want to make sure there are more jobs coming into Wales and to keep the jobs that we've got' I think the answer will be yes.

"But of course that means that is the priority, rather than dealing with the issue of freedom of movement. But you can't have both. There is a trade-off between one and the other.

"For me, people being able to keep their jobs and to attract more better paid jobs into Wales has to be the main objective."

Some businesses were "holding off on investing" because of the uncertainty following June's referendum, he said.

'Broad agreement'

The first minister added that it was likely that the assembly would have to give its consent to the UK government's promised Great Repeal Bill - the legislation that will put EU law into UK law when the country leaves the bloc.

He said he had been told to expect a section of that bill that deals with Wales, "but it's important that all that does is to enshrine the status quo legally rather than encroach on the assembly's powers".

Mr Jones hoped for "broad agreement" on the UK's negotiating stance for Brexit, which the devolved administrations could sign up to.

He added that he did not believe it would work for different parts of the UK to have different relationships with the single market.

'Opportunistic'

Mr Jones, who campaigned for a Remain vote, has criticised the UK government's approach to Brexit and has urged Theresa May not to challenge Thursday's High Court ruling that Parliament should be involved in triggering the process.

The Welsh Government said last week it would apply to have a voice in the proposed Supreme Court appeal against the judges' decision.

Counsel general Mick Antoniw said at the time of the announcement that the ruling raised questions of "profound importance" on the legal framework for devolution.

But former Welsh Secretary Stephen Crabb criticised the decision, calling it "entirely unnecessary and opportunistic".

The Preseli Pembrokeshire Conservative MP told the House of Commons on Monday: "Rather than seek to impede or complicate what should be an orderly exit from the European Union, the Welsh Labour Government should spend more time talking to their own voters about why they turned out so overwhelmingly to vote for Brexit".

In response, Brexit Secretary David Davis said: "I'll leave the Welsh Labour Party to take his advice directly".

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