David Jones's speech to Swansea University

Minister David Jones's address to Swansea University on the opportunities ahead as the UK leaves the European Union

The Rt Hon David Jones MP

Bore da.

Diolch i chi am fy ngwahodd i’r adnabyddus Ysgol Reolaeth Prifysgol Abertawe i siarad â chi am sut y mae Llywodraeth y Deyrnas Unedig yn paratoi i adael yr Undeb Ewropeaidd.

Good morning, and thank you for inviting me to the prestigious Swansea University School of Management. I want to speak to you about how the UK Government is preparing for Britain’s exit from the European Union.

First of all I’m sorry that because of unbreakable commitments at Westminster I can’t be with you in person; but I am delighted that, in this wondrous age, I can still appear at least in pixels, if not in the flesh, to speak to you really about what is certainly the most important issue for the whole of our country and to give you my perspective as a Government Minister, and a Welshman, about Brexit.

Before I start I’d also like to congratulate Professor Richard Davies and the University on the groundbreaking work done by the School of Management and the College for Engineering.

The links with internationally renowned companies such as Rolls-Royce, Airbus and BP are truly innovative.

Swansea is a world-class University with a great, and growing, reputation, and it is a great pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to you today.


So today, I want to tell you what we in the government are doing to prepare for exiting the EU.

But before I do that, it’s important to remember the context that has brought us to our current position.

On 23 June, the people of this country decided that we should leave the EU.

This is one of the the most significant political events in the UK in all our lifetimes.

Over 33 million people voted in that referendum – and 52% voted in favour of leaving the EU.

And a clear majority of 1.3 million, voted to leave.

As a government, we are clear that we have our instruction from the electorate and we have to deliver on that.

What’s more, as a Welshman, and a Welsh MP for more than 10 years, let me say that I was proud to lead the Leave campaign in Wales.

When the UK, including Wales, voted to leave in June, I believe that we voted for a better future.

A future in which we will do what all independent sovereign countries do.

Outside the EU, we will be free to pass our own laws.

We will make our own decisions about our spending priorities.

We will control our own borders.

And whilst we will certainly want to maintain good neighbourly relations with the Member States of the continuing EU, we will be able to create new relationships with other countries right around the world.

Brexit, in short, is going to mark a new and exciting chapter in Britain’s history.

So, what is Brexit?

I’m sure you’ve all heard that Brexit means Brexit - it means we are coming out of the European Union, and delivering the will of the British people.

It means negotiating a new relationship with our partners in the EU but also forging new trade links beyond the European Union and shaping our own domestic arrangements for our post-EU Britain.

There will be new opportunities for our economy, for tourism, for our great industries and our SMEs; and for our universities and research institutions, such as Swansea itself.

I’m not going to gloss over the fact that Brexit will create challenges — it would be wrong to say anything to the contrary.

But the outcome of the process we are about to embark upon will be a Britain that is more democratic and that has its most precious sovereignty restored.

Higher education of course is a crucially important sector; its continued vibrancy and success are essential to our national prosperity.

We understand that universities want to access research funds, that higher education is a global-facing sector that draws on worldwide talent and that the UK has a great track record in attracting international students.

So I want to talk to you in a moment about how the Government is continuing to support universities as we approach our negotiations to leave the EU.

But before we move on to specific issues of interest to you, I firstly want to explain the work that my department, the Department for Exiting the EU, is currently doing.


The Department was formed by the Prime Minister to support her on a day-to-day basis in the negotiations for leaving the EU and to establish the future relationship between the EU and the UK.

We are a rapidly-growing department, conveniently located at number 9 Downing Street.

The officials at DExEU are some of the highest quality to be found in Whitehall and they are currently heavily engaged in an extensive programme of sectoral and regulatory analysis.

That is aimed at identifying the key factors for British businesses and their labour force that are going to affect our negotiations with the EU.

We are looking in detail at over 50 separate sectors and cross-cutting regulatory issues, working closely with other departments to understand fully the potential impact of withdrawal from the EU.

It goes without saying that our primary aim is to achieve the best outcome for Britain.

And we want to deliver this through a smooth and orderly process.

It is to achieve this smooth withdrawal that we have also announced the Great Repeal Bill, which will be introduced in the next Parliamentary session.

The purpose of that Bill is to convert the EU acquis – the body of European Union law - into domestic UK law.

Without the Bill, there would be large gaps in the UK statute book, because such a large volume of our law is predicated on our membership of the European Union.

Much of our law, if we did not take this option, would be inoperable.

Without pre-judging when the Bill is introduced, the future negotiated UK-EU relationship, or future decisions that Parliament may make, I believe the Bill will give consumers, workers and businesses certainty that the legal system, post Brexit, will function efficiently.

As to timing, we now made clear that we will invoke the provisions of Article 50 on the Treaty on European Union – the necessary first step in the process of withdrawal - no later than the end of March next year.

That timescale gives us the space required to do the necessary work to shape our negotiating strategy.

And that work is vital because the choices that we make over the coming months will affect generations to come.

I know that quick decisions and early answers can seem reassuring — I can tell you there’s a clammering in Parliament for just that this is not the time for rushed decisions.

Now, the Prime Minister has been clear that we won’t be giving a running commentary on the withdrawal process, because that’s not the right way to get the best deal for Britain.

However, what I can do is give you some context to our negotiations, and talk to you about some of the opportunities and challenges that we are in the process of identifying.


First of all, let me be clear: we will enter into the negotiations from a position of economic strength.

Today, the UK can lay claim to being the number one destination for foreign direct investment in Europe.

  • We are the world’s fifth biggest economy.
  • We have the fastest growing economy in the G7.
  • And the City of London is the world’s leading financial centre.

This is a world away from where we were in 2010, after the crash of 2008 and the subsequent recession.

But it’s not just the economy that is showing remarkable resilience.

The UK is a hub of educational excellence, with three of the top 10 universities in the world.

The UK is ranked in the three top countries of the World in the Global Innovation Index.

Excellent universities such as Swansea are crucial to our economy.

The United Kingdom has a long established system that supports, and attracts, the brightest minds, at all stages of their careers.

I’m proud that the Government funds excellent research wherever it is found and its determined to secure the freedom to pursue important scientific research.

And it’s partnerships between academic research and industry — such as those made by the College of Engineering in Swansea — that will ensure that the UK continues to lead the way after we leave the EU.

I firmly believe that the British economy as a whole – and the economy Wales – will continue to flourish outside the EU.

But for us to be successful, we need to identify not only the challenges, but also the opportunities that are presented to Wales.

Wales has shown that it is a big part of the United Kingdom’s recovery and growth since the recession.

As my Ministerial colleague Alun Cairns said only last week, here in Wales we should be celebrating that:

  • We have a record number of people in work.
  • We have the fastest growth per head outside London since 2010.
  • And the value of Welsh exports has more than doubled since 1999 - with 60% of those exports going outside the EU.

Now my department is currently working to make sure we build on our successes and seize all the opportunities open to us by leaving the EU, both for Wales and for the UK as a whole.

We are scoping the sectors of the economy in detail and engaging with leading industries to understand their importance to different regions and nations, and their key markets for import and for export.

In Wales, that means engaging, in particular, with aerospace, with the automotive sector, with agriculture, financial and professional services.

Wales is fast developing a new hi-tech economy, closely linked to the exceptional academic community anchoring it here.

In defence, in aerospace and in life sciences, many large, global firms have got a presence in Wales.

And it is impossible to name them all, but as a North Walian, I can say that it is a particular source of pride to me to know that every time I take a flight on an Airbus aircraft, I am taken aloft on wings that are manufactured only 30 minutes drive from my home in Colwyn Bay.

Airbus collaborates closely with universities, not least Swansea.

And I want to see the university and research sector driving these kinds of new collaborations forward in the future.

Similarly, the newly formed Department for International Trade, under the leadership of Liam Fox, is brokering links internationally and identifying chances to form new relationships.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to forge a new role for ourselves in the world: a positive and a powerful force for free trade.

And as a Global Britain open for business.

We have already begun to reach out to the world.

I was delighted that only a few weeks ago the Prime Minister was able to secure £1.2 billion in deals on her recent trip to India.

Welsh companies export more to countries outside the EU than to to EU member states themselves.

Today Welsh exports to countries outside the EU are estimated to be worth £7.2bn annually.

I’m absolutely confident Wales is well poised to form new trading opportunities.

We have a proud history of entrepreneurship.

And Wales has always been at forefront of new technologies, from David Davies Llandinam - railway and coal pioneer to Howel Francis who sitting in the front row - arguably the greatest ever Welsh entrepreneur, to Dr Lyn Evans, a distinguished alumnus of this university, who led the CERN project to build the Large Hadron Collider.


There are huge opportunities for our universities.

The UK’s global status as a thought-leader and a science and research superpower is fundamental to our wider economic competitiveness — and the success of our universities.

Institutions like Swansea School of Management, with its major collaboration with world-class companies, are leading the way.

And this government is committed to building on that type of innovation and securing the right outcome for the UK research base and higher education sector as we proceed to leave the European Union.

My ministerial colleagues have had the opportunity to listen, and speak, to a wide range of universities and research institutions, to understand their priorities.

We intend to ensure that the British research and technology communities can continue to access the talent that they need to build the next Airbus or delve deeper into the causes of epilepsy, as the Swansea Neurology and Molecular Neuroscience Research Team have been doing with such success in recent months.

And innovation such as this requires the best brains we can access, wherever they come from.

So let me be absolutely clear: while we have a clear mandate from the electorate to take back control of the number of people entering this country is clear, leaving the European Union does not – and must not - mean that we pull up the drawbridge.

We must retain the flexibility and discretion to ensure that we continue to attract the best of global talent.

And as David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, has said - let me quote him:

We will always welcome those with the skills, the drive and the expertise to make our nation better still.

If we are to win in the global marketplace, we must win the global battle for talent. Britain has always been one of the most tolerant and welcoming places on the face of the earth. It must and it will remain so.

We have already provided the certainty to current eligible EU students and those starting courses in 16/17 and 17/18 that they will continue to be eligible for finance for the full duration of their course.

And the Prime Minister has already made clear that she wants to seek early agreement on the status of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU, so that businesses and individuals can plan with certainty.

Welsh universities are a leading example of a sector already reaching out to the world — in 2014/15 there were nearly 19,000 international (i.e. non-EU) students enrolled at Welsh universities.

And as we forge that new future post-Brexit I hope and fully expect that the bond between Welsh institutions and the rest of the world will only become stronger.

We also intend to ensure that research and development more broadly is receiving the funding it needs to thrive, and to take with it our broader economy.

The Prime Minister announced on Monday, as you probably know, that by the end of the Parliament, we will be investing an extra £2 billion a year in research and development to put post-Brexit Britain at the cutting edge of science and technology.

Some of this funding will be directed to an Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, to back priority technologies such as robotics and biotechnology where the UK and not least Wales has the potential to turn strengths in research into a global industrial and commercial lead.

And in addition, we have committed to underwrite all competitively bid-for EU research funding granted before the point of exit.

This gives British participants and their EU partners in Horizon 2020, for example, the assurance and certainty needed to plan ahead for projects that can run over many years.

We are also reviewing our Small Business Research Initiative and looking at how we can increase its impact and give more innovators who are turning the best of our research and development industry into new businesses their first break.

We must not lose sight of the unique opportunities that leaving the EU may provide for research and development.

As we leave the EU, we have an exciting opportunity to forge new, stronger global collaborative links.

We can look again at the opportunities to further support the UK’s world class research and innovation in the life sciences sector to ensure we have the right approach that allows key trail-blazing sectors, such as biotech and pharmaceuticals, to thrive.


We must deliver Brexit success for Wales.

We must make sure that we consider Wales’s needs in the context of the clearest ever mandate we have had from the public on a political issue in modern times.

It is vital that every part of the UK has its say on what it needs from the process of negotiation, which is why we my department is liaising closely with the Welsh Government.

For Wales and for the UK to be successful, all constituent parts will need to work together to seek to seize the opportunities that Brexit presents.

So have established a new ministerial committee to ensure that Wales’s devolved concerns are properly represented, and that Welsh ministers have their say.

My team is working closely with Mark Drakeford’s team within the Welsh Government.

We have a strong relationship with the devolved administrations and institutions.

And we are investing our energy into making those relationships a cornerstone of our successful exit.


Let’s be absolutely clear, while we are leaving the European Union, we are not leaving Europe.

We do not see Brexit as ending our relationship with Europe or as a bar to continued collaboration and cooperation.

But we want to create and nurture new relationships, both within Europe and internationally.

And we know that there are still a great many areas where our interests will continue to coincide.

The process for leaving and determining our future relationship will not, let me be frank, be brief or straightforward.

We know there will be challenges to overcome, and we are working very hard at the moment to prepare for negotiations.

But my message to you here today, to you in Swansea, is that the UK is the same outward-looking, globally-minded and big thinking country we have always been.

And this bold decision by the people of this country on 23 June will see Wales and the UK forge a new place for themselves in the world.

This is a pivotal moment in our nation’s history.

And there is a new future that awaits us all.

So let’s embrace it clear-sightedly, but nevertheless with confidence.

And I believe if we work together, if we seize the opportunities of this moment, there is nothing we cannot do together.

Thank you.

Published 2 December 2016