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EU workers ‘crucial’ to Suffolk and Norfolk’s industries, Brexit report warns

PUBLISHED: 18:04 29 March 2018 | UPDATED: 23:56 29 March 2018

Suffolk's agriculture industry could be facing significant effects from brexit. Picture: THINKSTOCK/ZOONAR/S HEAP

Suffolk's agriculture industry could be facing significant effects from brexit. Picture: THINKSTOCK/ZOONAR/S HEAP

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A report detailing the potential impact of Brexit on Suffolk and Norfolk has warned that it is “crucial” to retain EU workers because so many of the region’s key industries are reliant on them.

New Anglia LEP chairman Doug Field. Picture: LUCY TAYLORNew Anglia LEP chairman Doug Field. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Suffolk County Council, Norfolk County Council and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) jointly commissioned research carried out by Metro Dynamics into the possible effects Brexit will have on firms in both counties.

The report, published last month, said that “arguably the most significant impact of Brexit in Norfolk and Suffolk will be on the local labour force”.

It added that the agriculture, manufacturing and construction industries relied heavily on seasonal and EU workers, and this need was because farms struggled to recruit sufficient numbers of domestic workers.

The report also warned that a lack of seasonal workers meant farms would be unable to fill work places, adding that such a shortfall may also reduce their production and growth.

More than 61,000 people are employed in manufacturing in Suffolk and Norfolk, and the report warned that without EU labour, more manufacturing firms would move out of the region.

Following the publication of the research, measures will now be implemented to help support businesses which may face the biggest impact.

A spokesman from the LEP said that work was at an “early stage” and would be delivered alongside the economic strategy for both counties.

Doug Field, New Anglia LEP chairman, said: “We know that Brexit will have a significant impact and while there are still a number of uncertainties, it is useful to be able to see a fuller picture of how our key sectors may be impacted.

“It means we’re now well informed to look at the role the LEP and local authority partners can play in supporting businesses to be ready for March 2019.”

A local industrial strategy is currently being drawn up to help protect Suffolk and Norfolk’s specialisms, such as food and drink, engage more with young people for jobs, and collaborate with other regions.

The report concluded that “as with lower skilled jobs, it is crucial to retain these workers” in science and technology.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman was unavailable for comment.

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