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Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto had failed to cut through with voters, said Welsh environment minister Lesley Griffiths

The new Conservative government faces “enormous challenges” in its bid to hit its self-imposed trade deal deadline with the EU and avoid another Brexit cliff-edge, Welsh environment minister Lesley Griffiths has warned.

Speaking to The Grocer after Boris Johnson’s Tories romped to a Commons majority of 78 in yesterday’s general election, the Welsh Labour politician said food and drink producers would continue to face uncertainty as they waited for the UK to forge new trade deals with the EU and further afield.

“Johnson’s mantra may have been to Get Brexit Done, but we still face years and years of trade negotiations,” said Griffiths. “The hard work starts here.” 

There were “enormous challenges if we are to avoid crashing out this time next year with no EU trade deal”, she added, while calling for the Welsh government to be given a place at the negotiating table for future trade deals.

“The prime minister has got to be really honest about the scale of the challenge that lies ahead in negotiating these trade deals,” she added.

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Producers now needed more certainty over the UK’s future direction, she stressed.

“We’ve marched our business up to the top of the hill three times this year [in preparing for Brexit]. After the third time there was a fatigue with our businesses from having to stockpile three times. They just can’t afford it, and that uncertainty has not gone away.”

Griffiths is a Welsh assembly member in Wrexham, which elected a Conservative MP for the first time in living memory in yesterday’s election.

While Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto was “excellent”, Griffiths conceded his commitments had failed to cut through to voters in the north east Wales town.

“There were two big issues on the doorstep: Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership,” she said. “There were some fantastic policies in that manifesto but clearly that’s not where the country is and wanted to vote for.”

Corbyn today said he would not stand as leader of the Labour Party in another election, and would stand down following “a process of reflection” after Labour’s worst election result since 1935.

Food and drink attention turns to new Brexit deadline as Conservatives sweep to victory

It comes as the expected challenge by Labour to environment secretary Theresa Villiers failed to materialise in her Chipping Barnet seat in London.

Villiers saw her share of the vote fall by 1.6%, but with 25,745 votes she doubled her majority over Labour’s Emma Whysall to 1,212.

Farming minister George Eustice held on to his Camborne and Redruth seat with 26,764 seats as his share of the vote rose by 5.7% to 53%. Under-secretary of state at Defra Rebecca Pow held her Taunton Deane seat with 34,164 votes and a 53.6% share, up 0.7% on the last election.

However, Defra minister of state and prominent Brexiter Zac Goldsmith lost his Richmond Park seat to Liberal Democrat Sarah Olney. Goldsmith polled 26,793 votes, with his share of the vote down 4% on 2017. Olney saw her vote share rise 8% to 53.1% as she attracted 34,559 votes in a rare positive moment for her party.

Sweeping gains by the Tories included the unseating of Labour’s shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman by Mark Jenkinson with 20,488 votes in Workington. Hayman saw her share of the vote plummet by 11.9% to 16,312 as the Conservatives took the Labour stronghold for only the second time since 1918.

Elsewhere, former environment secretary Michael Gove saw his share of the vote fall by 5.6% in his Surrey Heath constituency, though he still polled 34,358 votes and was re-elected. His predecessors at Defra, Andrea Leadsom (41,755) and Liz Truss (35,507) also held on to their seats with healthy majorities.

The prime minister is expected to undertake a limited cabinet reshuffle over the weekend.

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