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QEQM hospital in Margate ‘will shut if EU citizens forced to leave post-Brexit’

PUBLISHED: 13:28 19 September 2017

QEQM, Margate

QEQM, Margate

Archant

Sir Roger Gale warned the UK economy would not survive without European workers

The QEQM Hospital in Margate would shut if EU citizens are forced to leave after Brexit, an MP has warned.

Sir Roger Gale fears the UK economy “would not survive” if the right measures are not put in place to permit not only skilled but “semi and unskilled labour” to enter the UK.

His colleagues around the county have also expressed fears on the impact of a bad Brexit deal, with Helen Whately concerned that farms in her constituency of Faversham and Mid Kent would go out of business without access to seasonal labour.

Speaking in a Commons debate on the rights of UK nationals in the EU, the Thanet North MP 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.”

Speaking after the debate, Sir Roger said he understood the desire to control immigration - a major reason why many voted to leave the EU - but insisted the country would grind to a halt without access to the required workforce.

“This is not about ‘cheap labour’ as the opposition seeks to suggest,” he added.

“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.”

Sir Roger also called for a deal for British citizens living elsewhere in Europe.

“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,” he said.

“I cannot believe that is what those who voted to leave the EU were actually voting for.”

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