(Title Image: Ineos)
In what could turn out to be another major blow to the local economy – already reeling from the imminent closure of the Ford engine plant and the pandemic – Ineos has suspended work on its plant at Brocastle in Bridgend, after a former Mercedes plant near the French-German border (“Smartville”) became available.
The formal planning application for the factory was only submitted to Bridgend Council a few weeks ago, but there was never any firm completion date.
Questions were asked in the Senedd earlier this afternoon and the Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates (Lab, Clwyd South) said Ineos’ announcement was “extremely disappointing” given the time and effort put into attracting the plant to Bridgend in the first place.
The irony/hypocrisy of a company owned by a Brexit-supporting CEO moving production to France wasn’t lost on Carwyn Jones MS (Lab, Bridgend):
“Minister, do you agree with me that where businesses make a case for Brexit, there is an extra responsibility on them to invest in the UK and not in the single market purely because it may be more convenient? Do you also agree with me that those who are passionate Brexiteers should be angry at what has happened here because this undermines their passionately held belief that the UK would be better outside the EU?”
– Carwyn Jones MS
Suzy Davies MS (Con, South Wales West) pointed to the other suspended plant in Portugal (an EU member state) and considered any focus on Brexit to be a distraction. She asked whether there was any sign that Ineos wasn’t as committed to Bridgend as they said they were? Was a deal still possible? Is the lack of an M4 Newport bypass to blame?
Helen Mary Jones MS (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) asked whether there were further plans for Brocastle? There was also a broader lesson here – to reconsider economic priorities and focus more investment at Welsh businesses.
Huw Irranca-Davies MS (Lab, Ogmore) called for a direct appeal to the Prime Minister to intervene, while Andrew RT Davies MS (Con, South Wales Central) thought the negative reaction would scupper any chance of the factory being built.
Decision “perplexing”; £4million spent to date “will be recouped”
The Minister said that the Welsh Government would do what they can to look at possible alternative options for Brocastle.
He described any suggestion that the cancellation of the Newport bypass was to blame as “nonsense on stilts”; the Newport decision was made months before Ineos selected Bridgend and after four years of negotiations.
The Welsh Government will seek to recoup money they had spent or provided to date:
“We will be seeking to recoup the £4 million that has been spent to date. There is the slightest chance that it could still come to Wales, but that would require the deal in France to fall through. But we will go on working to ensure that as many job opportunities come to Bridgend and the surrounding communities as possible.”
– Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates
In a glimmer of hope, he added that there were two active proposals for the (soon to be former) Ford engine plant and there are also early plans for an electric battery “gigafactory” at St Athan.