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Post-Brexit Immigration controls: MP warns of Labour shortages - 19th September 2017

North Thanet`s MP Sir Roger Gale has warned of a potentially catastrophic post-Brexit labour shortage in East Kent if the right measures are not put in place to permit not only skilled but semi and unskilled labour to enter the UK.

Speaking in a Commons debate (UK Nationals in the EU; Rights) Sir Roger said:

“I am acutely aware of the importance of the EU nationals employed in my constituency. If the EU citizens among the ancillary staff in the QEQM hospital – never mind the highly qualified consultants and others – were to leave the hospital would shut. If we removed the equivalent staff from local Care Homes they would shut. If the Lithuanian bakers from Speciality Breads, an excellent and award-winning local company, were to leave that business would have great difficulty finding replacements for them. The largest greenhouse complex in Europe is in my constituency. They grow tomatoes hydroponically 24 hours a day seven days a week. Those tomatoes are harvested largely by Poles and Romanians. Why? Because despite my requests and the Company`s best endeavours they cannot recruit British labour to do the job, not because of costs but because it is hard work and there are not enough people willing to do it.

There are necessary people – not merely the highly qualified and the skilled but the semi-skilled and the unskilled – from the European Union and beyond who work, live, enjoy life and pay taxes in this country and without most of those people the UK economy would not survive”.

Commenting upon the situation facing UK nationals living within the remaining 27 countries of the EU Sir Roger said:

“There is an imbalance of about three to one between EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living throughout the rest of the European Union. The EU citizens in the UK are, by and large, working. The majority of Ex-Pat UK citizens are retired so they have much less room for manoeuvre and they are very frightened people. Contrary to popular belief the majority are not rich , living on yachts in Cannes sipping gin and lying in the sun. Generally, they have worked in the UK throughout their lives, paid their taxes and national insurance contributions and for whatever reason – health, perhaps or climate – have found it desirable to live in France or Spain or other EU countries. They have no flexibility in their incomes which have fallen quite dramatically because of the fall in the value of the pound . Many of them are living on UK State pensions and very little else.

These ex-pats are living in genteel poverty. They have a roof over their heads and they own their own homes but having sold up and moved from the UK they now face a choice: do they try to return to the UK to become a burden upon the State or do they remain and face losing perhaps their healthcare, their pension increases and probably their `exportable benefits` such as Disability Living Allowance, Attendance Allowance and Carers` Allowance?

Many UK citizens who live within mainland Europe could not, for example, secure private healthcare insurance at their age in any meaningful sence. They are utterly dependent upon the reciprocal EU agreement. There is also a real danger that if we cannot reach a bilateral agreement with each of the other 27 member states we could see UK pensions frozen in the EU as they currently are in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. These are significant issues. There are frightened people who want and need answers urgently”.

Speaking after the debate the MP said:

There are two issues that must be addressed: Notwithstanding the desire to control immigration, which I understand and which is why many people voted to leave the EU, we have to ensure that we have sufficient in human resources to do the jobs that have to be done and without which the Country will come to a grinding halt. This is not about “cheap labour” as the Opposition seeks to suggest. Speciality Breads, for example, was one of the first companies in Thanet to implement in full and in advance of its formal introduction the Living Wage – a fact of which they are rightly proud. And it is no good saying that “we should train British workers to do the jobs” when they are unavailable, unwilling or unable to be trained. We have to be hard-headed and realistic about the contribution made the the UK economy. “Seasonal Workers` Schemes” for businesses that are not seasonal but 365 days a year are meaningless. British industry needs staff, post-Brexit, to compete and thrive in new markets.

Second, while many are clamouring for a unilateral deal for EU citizens living and working in the UK we must, in the interests of British citizens living elsewhere in Europe, secure a reciprocal agreement. If we do not do so then we are in danger of cutting a million or so ex-pats adrift without healthcare or, in some cases, adequate means of support. I cannot believe that that is what those who voted to leave the EU were actually voting for.”

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