Boris Johnson heads to Wales as pound hits fresh lows [Video]
Boris Johnson will continue his whirlwind UK tour with a visit to Wales today, attempting to reassure farmers about a no-deal Brexit.
There was no let-up in the pressure facing the pound overnight as sterling hit fresh 28-month lows in Asia trading.
It stood at $1.2131 and €1.0890 – just shy of a further cent down against each currency – by 6am.
A note to clients from London Capital Group said of the no-deal Brexit effect: “From a market perspective, the worst is probably being priced in right now”.
The prime minister will visit South Wales, meeting farmers and farm workers, before talks in Cardiff with Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford.
But Mr Johnson is heading for a bitter clash with Mr Drakeford, who says the PM has no mandate for a no-deal Brexit, which would be “catastrophic” for Wales.
During his visit, Mr Johnson will claim farmers and food producers will thrive in post-Brexit Britain because of new trade deals and leaving the EU’s common agricultural policy.
He insists the government will throw itself into negotiations to agree a new deal with the EU, but will prepare for no deal on 31 October if the EU continues to refuse to make any changes to the withdrawal agreement.
But he will have a tough task trying to reassure Welsh farmers about no deal.
Earlier this month Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union, told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday that a no-deal Brexit would be “catastrophic” for farmers.
And just last week, days before Mr Johnson became prime minister, Farmers’ Union of Wales president Glyn Roberts warned a no-deal Brexit could lead to the “possibility of some civil unrest”.
“If the farming community have their backs against the wall, the only way they’re going to get from there is fighting their way through,” he said.
More than 50,000 people are employed in the farming industry in Wales, while food and drink is the country’s biggest earner, contributing almost £1.7bn to the Welsh economy.
So far, in less than a week as prime minister – on what has been called a “honeymoon tour” making pledges “to revitalise forgotten communities” – Mr Johnson has:
Speaking ahead of his visit to Wales, Mr Johnson said: “I will always back Britain’s great farmers and as we leave the EU we need to make sure that Brexit works for them.
“That means scrapping the common agricultural policy and signing new trade deals – our amazing food and farming sector will be ready and waiting to continue selling ever more not just here but around the world.
“Once we leave the EU on 31 October, we will have a historic opportunity to introduce new schemes to support farming – and we will make sure that farmers gets a better deal.
“Brexit presents enormous opportunities for our country and it’s time we looked to the future with pride and optimism.”
During his visit to Wales, Mr Johnson will also visit Brecon and Radnorshire in advance of Thursday’s by-election, called after Tory MP Chris Davies was ousted in a recall petition having been found guilty of submitting false expenses claims.
Mr Davies was surprisingly readopted as the Conservative candidate and the Liberal Democrats are tipped to win the seat, benefiting from a “Remainer Alliance” in which Plaid Cymru and the Greens are not standing, and further reduce the Tory majority in the Commons.
However, a new YouGov poll for ITV/Cardiff University put the Tories ahead in Wales when respondents were asked who they would vote for in a general election.
The survey, conducted as soon as Mr Johnson was elected Conservative leader, puts the Tories on 24% in Wales.
The poll also puts Labour (22%) at their lowest level of support ever recorded, but ahead of the Brexit Party (18%), Lib Dems (16%) and Plaid Cymru (15%).
Professor Roger Awan-Scully, of Cardiff University, said: “These are quite extraordinary results, in many respects almost wholly unprecedented.
“Despite an apparent ‘Boris bounce’ for the Tories, worth seven percentage points, the poll shows the extent to which the dominance of the two largest parties has declined in recent months.
“This is the second barometer in a row where the combined Labour and Conservative vote share is below 50%.”
Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns, one of few cabinet ministers to survive Mr Johnson’s ruthless cull of ministers, told Sky News ahead of the prime minister’s visit to Wales: “We’re working with farmers, of course, to ensure they’re fully prepared… for any or either eventuality – either of leaving with a deal or without a deal.
“We all recognise that being fully prepared to leave without a deal gives options to the government… and strengthens our hand in the negotiations, to see a change to the undemocratic backstop that has always been the problem.
“The withdrawal agreement as it stands is dead, we need a shift with that. So, by being fully prepared, it gives us the best leverage to get a shift.
“And that means the preparations that farmers and the agricultural sector will take will also put them in the best position, in the event of a deal or a no deal, to exploit the new opportunities thereafter, as we become an independent trading nation.”
But Mr Drakeford said: “My main message to the prime minister remains the same: he has no public mandate for a no-deal Brexit, which would be catastrophic for Wales.
“If the UK does leave the EU, the UK government must work in close partnership with the Welsh government to mitigate negative effects on Wales and its economy.”