Wales politics

Brexit views sought by MPs in Ebbw Vale public meeting

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Media captionWhat do people in Ebbw Vale think about Brexit four months on?

An inquiry by MPs into what Brexit will mean for Wales has been holding the first in a series of public meetings.

The Welsh Affairs Committee session, in Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent, focused on the impact on jobs and industry, aid for poorer areas, the arts and the Welsh language of Brexit.

Chairman David Davies said the sessions would help the MPs decide how to scrutinise the Brexit negotiations.

"It is essential to understand the unique impact on Wales," he said.

In June's referendum a majority of voters in Wales - 52.5% - chose to leave the EU while 47.5% wanted to remain.

Blaenau Gwent saw the strongest vote for Brexit in Wales, with 62% support for Leave.

The meeting attracted people from across south Wales, not just the immediate area.

Image caption Glyn Davies, a Tory member of the Welsh Affairs Committee, speaks to people in Ebbw Vale
Image caption MPs and the public put their heads together to think about the impact of Brexit

About 35 people sat down with MPs to talk about their concerns and consider the implications of leaving the European Union.

Freedom of movement was the biggest concern, with strengthening devolution coming second. The committee hopes to put views gathered across Wales to the UK government.

John Selway, from Caerphilly, who voted to remain, said he felt disappointed with the result and had attended the meeting to find out what was happening with Brexit.

The 60-year-old said the referendum had divided his family, and had caused a few heated arguments.

"I feel I have lost some things and people haven't gained anything," he said.

Leave campaigner Blake Stephens, 16, from Chepstow, Monmouthshire, said negativity had to stop and people needed to be reassured about leaving the EU.

He said he thought people had honest concerns about immigration and they needed to be listened to.

Image caption David Davies MP: "We are listening to everyone"

Monday's event at Ebbw Vale Institute was staged as part of UK Parliament Week, which seeks to raise awareness of and involvement in democracy.

A similar event is due to take place at Aberystwyth University on 28 November.

Mr Davies, the Conservative MP for Monmouth, said there were still some very difficult views about leaving the EU but there had been "no surprises".

He admitted the representation of local people's views "wasn't perfect", adding the committee needed to be more inventive to get people to the meetings.

"It's difficult to reach out to that section of the population who perhaps feel they haven't been listened to for a long time, and feel if they come to a meeting like this they won't be listened to," he said.

"I can honestly say we are listening to everyone and we are listening to people with widely different views."

'What's the point?'

Outside the meeting, a number of people in Ebbw Vale said they were not aware of the MPs' visit.

Anne Millard, 62, said she would have attended if she had known, revealing she had voted Leave to get "our country back".

"There's a lot of unemployment here - people can't get any work," she said.

"We have lost the steelworks, some big factories have closed, some local people can't get jobs in some of the factories.

"I don't want someone in Europe telling me how to live my life here."

Image caption Residents have questioned the spending of EU cash on a dragon sculpture

Her daughter Julie Williams, 43, said the EU money given to the area had not been spent on the right things when services were under threat.

"Some of the things are visually appealing, but they are not necessary," she said.

Caroline Joseph, who runs a cafe and supported remaining in the EU, said: "Perhaps a lot of people didn't go as they felt like 'what's the point'."

Referring to an EU-funded sculpture of a dragon, she added: "They said it's going to regenerate the town - how the hell is a dragon going to regenerate the town?"

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