‘Brexit shock’ threat to small firms, warns Plaid Cymru

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Small firms could be exposed to a “Brexit shock” due to Welsh Government inaction, a Plaid Cymru AM has warned.

Steffan Lewis accused ministers of only engaging fully with “anchor” companies on Brexit, while the Irish government had contacted more than 1,400.

He urged Economy Secretary Ken Skates to ensure Welsh businesses were prepared for a “worst case scenario”.

Mr Skates has said Brexit was a “major part of regular discussions with businesses right across Wales”.

Mr Lewis, Plaid Cymru external affairs spokesman, is in Kilkenny in the Republic of Ireland for a meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly on Monday.

He said the economy secretary’s replies to a series of written questions showed Welsh ministers were “sleepwalking to Brexit” and letting down small and medium-sized firms (SMEs).

“Sixty-seven percent of Welsh exports go to the rest of the EU, with a significant portion of those exports coming from Welsh SMEs,” he said.

“It is scandalous that whilst the Irish government has engaged with over 1,400 client companies, the Welsh government has only engaged fully with anchor companies.

“This is leaving small and medium sized businesses in Wales exposed to a Brexit shock.”

Image caption Steffan Lewis says help is needed to see businesses through “uncertainty and turbulence”

Mr Lewis said Mr Skates was “unable to provide data on how many businesses the Welsh Government has spoken to in order to provide Brexit support or how many Welsh companies are most exposed to the impact Brexit will have”.

Accusing the economy secretary of a “wait and see approach”, the Plaid AM called for a “full-scale engagement programme”.

“The Welsh Government’s current complacency is gambling with Wales’ economy and our nation’s future,” he added.

In a written answer to Mr Lewis the economy secretary said: “We have made strong efforts to understand the implications of Brexit across businesses in Wales and EU transition forms a major part of our regular discussions with businesses right across Wales.

“Due to this wide-ranging approach, we do not gather data on the numbers of businesses we engage with on this topic.

“However, we are currently undertaking targeted engagement work with our Regionally Important Companies and our Anchor Company network to help refine and target our support going forward, and will also be undertaking roundtables or focus groups on this subject with smaller and medium sized businesses.”

Mr Skates added: “Whether there is a need for any targeted support aimed solely at Brexit-related issues will be subject to consideration as the full implications of this process become clearer.”

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