Minister 'delighted' to be wrong on Brexit forecasts

Alun Cairns
Image caption 'Delighted' to be proven wrong - Alun Cairns

Brexit's the biggest story in the Westminster village today, with one year to go until exit day and the prime minister visiting Wales, but I've largely been focusing my efforts on changes to S4C.

I did though find time to talk about Brexit with someone who warned during the referendum campaign that "the economic argument trumps everything else" and that a vote to leave would leave the UK facing "the very real prospect of recession".

Alun Cairns was not alone. George Osborne, then chancellor, warned of a year-long DIY recession to follow a leave vote. David Cameron issued similar apocalyptic warnings.

'Predictions'

Since the referendum, the economy has grown. So I asked Alun Cairns if he was wrong then, why should we trust his optimism now?

He told me: "I think in view of all the predictions that we would be in a deep recession by now if we voted to leave the European Union have proven to be wrong. I think people should be excited about the new opportunities as we leave the European Union."

I pointed out that those predictions came from his own government.

"There were predictions that came from a whole range of sources, the Bank of England, to academics, to many others. But I'm delighted that all of those predictions have been proven wrong because the Welsh and the UK economy is growing as a result. Cardiff is the fastest growing capital across the UK, Wales is the fastest growing nation across the UK so business is already responding and as I was in Hong Kong just last week we were talking to two significant investors that want to come and base themselves in Wales because they want to be part of this global Britain who are leaders in free trade."

Critics would point out that Brexit hasn't happened yet and that the figures about Cardiff and Wales's relative growth are for 2016 and include the five and a half months before the vote but you get his point.

'Walking holiday'

MPs are now leaving Westminster for a two-week recess, most of them united in the hope that Theresa May's decision to spend Easter in Wales does not mean what it did a year ago - a snap election.

Her former rival for the Tory crown, Andrea Leadsom, even joked to MPs that Mrs May should think only of the "beautiful countryside and fabulous Welsh food" while on holiday.

SNP MP Pete Wishart offered one solution: "I know it might come as a shock and alarm to some of the members over there, but I understand the prime minister is going for a walking holiday in Wales.

"Forget about hard borders for Ireland, these gentlemen over here should be hastily constructing one in Wales so we don't suffer the same fate as we did last year."

Mrs Leadsom replied: "I think we'd all encourage her to take a break and put work behind her, and think only of the beautiful countryside and fabulous Welsh food - and can I be any clearer than that?"

I too will be taking a break over Easter and will be back on BBC Wales duty on April 17. Bye for now.