Ireland is Wales’ closest and most important European partner – and the Welsh Government is determined to build closer relations with its nearest European neighbour, whether or not Brexit happens, Minister for International Relations Eluned Morgan will say today.
Ahead of a visit to Ireland, the Minister will say that the UK leaving the EU without a deal would be hugely damaging to Wales’ trade with Ireland, which is why it cannot be allowed to happen.
During her visit, the minister will meet Simon Coveney, the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, to reiterate the Welsh Government’s opposition to a no-deal Brexit.
Wales’ vital economic links with Ireland are significant for economies on both sides of the Irish Sea:
- The value of Welsh exports to Ireland was just over £1.5 billion in 2018; around 50% higher than in 2017, while Ireland is currently Wales’s 4th largest export market
- There are an estimated 80 Irish companies with a presence in Wales, employing just under 5,000 people
- Ireland is consistently Wales’ No.1 non-UK market in terms of the volume of visits to Wales. Visits to Wales from the Republic of Ireland have shown strong growth over the past 3 years, with 129,000 visits in 2015, 169,000 in 2016 and 206,000 in 2017. This represents growth of around 60% over this period
- There were 430 Irish students studying at Welsh universities in 2017/18, according to the most recent HESA figures. There were 225 Irish staff members at Welsh universities that year.
The Welsh Government has had an office in Dublin since 2012, and the Irish Government has recently reopened its Consulate in Cardiff, reaffirming the strong relations between Wales and Ireland.
Speaking ahead of her visit, Eluned Morgan said:
“The relationship with Ireland is extremely important to Wales. The republic is our closest European neighbour, and one of our most important economic partners. As a Welsh Government, we are determined to forge far greater ties with Ireland in the months and years ahead.
“That’s because people’s jobs and livelihoods depend on us maintaining strong and frictionless trading relationships with countries on our doorstep. Wales depends on Europe more for our trade than the UK as a whole, and Ireland has consistently remained in our top 5 export markets - currently Wales’s 4th largest export market. Our economic future relies on us maintaining strong and vital relationships with our neighbours.
“A catastrophic no deal Brexit is very real. With a new prime minister, we are likely to face a straight choice between a no deal Brexit, or remaining in the EU. That’s why the Welsh Government will campaign to remain in the EU and believe that Parliament must legislate as soon as possible for a referendum to decide on this question.
“In recent decades, Wales’ and the wider UK’s relationship with Ireland has been transformed. Brexit cannot put this in peril.
“So the message I’ll be taking to the very top of the Irish Government today is that Wales and Ireland must continue working together to ensure nothing happens that will harm our futures.”
During her visit, the minister will:
- hold a bilateral meeting with Tanaiste, and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney
- meet with the CEO of UDG Healthcare and President of Sharp Clinical Services. Sharp has recently expanded operations in Wales and moved to a new site in Rhymney, Caerphilly, safeguarding 70 jobs and creating a further 73
- visit the Guinness Enterprise Centre, at the heart of the Liberties district in Dublin City Centre and is currently home to 85 companies with more than 400 employees on-site. GEC was named Business Incubator in the World (Collaborating with Universities) at the World Incubation Summit in Toronto in February 2018. The world class incubator signed a partnership agreement in March 2019 with Tramshed Tech hub in Cardiff
- participate in a round table chaired by the British Irish Chamber of Commerce and its Brexit Committee with representatives from business, transport, and academia.