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Ford’s First Minister “snub” betrays Welsh Government’s lack of global influence

The First Minister today confirmed that he was snubbed by Ford Motors executives on his recent trade visit to the US, where he requested a meeting over the future job security of Ford employees based in his Bridgend constituency.

Last week, Ford Motors announced that it would discontinue the production of two engines made at its Bridgend plant by 2020, with investment in its new Dragon engine reduced, prompting fears that jobs at the plant could be lost.

At the time, Unite Union warned that Ford workers were “gripped by uncertainty” following news of the downscaling.

The revelation followed pressure from the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, who during First Minister’s Questions (FMQs) challenged the Labour leader on what action he had taken while in the US to address widespread concern over this action.

The First Minister said he had sought a meeting with the Detroit-based company, but received a response to say that a meeting was not possible and that the matter of the Bridgend plant was in the hands of Ford Europe.

No other mention was given to any further communication with Ford in the aftermath of his attempt at a meeting.

It is worth noting that a return flight to Detroit from Chicago – the location of the First Minister as the story broke – costs £133 and takes just over an hour.

The Bridgend Ford plant is one of four left in the UK - down from an original number of 24 plants. Andy Richards, Unite’s Wales secretary, said last week that in his view “they’re [Ford] attempting to pull out of Britain.”

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies said:

“That the First Minister failed to secure a meeting with Ford Motors in the aftermath of the decision to downscale their Bridgend plant, is nothing short of a snub and betrays the lack of clout he and his government wield on the international stage.

“It must be remembered that Carwyn Jones is an elected leader of a UK nation. As such, you’d think he would be able to exert his influence and assert himself to the necessary extent where he was afforded a brief meeting with Ford executives – especially at a time when so many hundreds of his constituents sought some degree of certainty over their jobs.

“The First Minister, and his Cabinet Secretary, must now doggedly seek reassurances from Ford over their long-term commitment to the Bridgend plant, not least for the sake of the hardworking employees who’ve contributed so greatly to the Welsh economy and the company’s success.”