Brexit: £50m Welsh fund to help businesses prepare

Media caption,
Carwyn Jones said the money was "on the table" even if the terms of Brexit were still undecided

A £50m fund is being set up to help Welsh businesses prepare for Brexit, the Welsh Government has announced.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said the EU Transition Fund will "help meet the challenges that lie ahead".

Welsh Tory AM Mark Isherwood said it was a "step in the right direction" and he accused Mr Jones' government of being in "paralysis" over Brexit.

Plaid Cymru Brexit spokesman Steffan Lewis said a "Brexit preparedness fund has long been advocated" by the party.

The Welsh Government fund will also be used to help companies continue to attract EU nationals to work in Wales, and there will be dedicated support for Wales' agricultural industry.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales, Mr Jones said there would be "opportunities in new markets" for firms "but lets not pretend somehow we can find a market overnight that can replace the European market for us".

"The first thing to do is to make sure that our most important market is still a market that we can access on the same terms, and to use the opportunities in that market to develop Welsh exports further, and of course to look at other markets around the world," he said.

Mr Jones said the fund would be "developed in partnership with our businesses and public services", providing "targeted and innovative support, which will help them survive and, indeed, thrive outside the EU".

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A Welsh Government spokeswoman said £10m will be made available immediately.

The rest of the money will be ring-fenced and released as required throughout the withdrawal process, with a proportion coming as a result of the UK government's budget commitment to set-aside £3bn to prepare for Brexit.

The UK is due to leave the EU in March 2019, and the UK government is hoping to negotiate an additional transition period.

The government had already allocated an additional £5m to prepare for Brexit as part of its two-year budget agreement with Plaid Cymru.

Welsh Conservatives Brexit spokesman Mr Isherwood said: "This is a small step in the right direction but sadly for Wales, since the referendum, the First Minister and his government has been in a state of paralysis, which has ensured that our country has been a step behind."

Plaid leader Leanne Wood has previously called for a £30m "Brexit Preparedness Fund" to help "mitigate any Brexit shock".

UKIP MEP Nathan Gill said it is "pragmatic to assume that there could well be some companies who face a financial deficit dependent upon what the outcomes of those negotiations are", but he said this "does not in any way imply Brexit won't be a great success overall".

He added that "instead of seizing this incredible new freedom, what we largely hear from the First Minister is lamenting leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union that has stymied the Welsh economy for decades."