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EU workers must not be sacrificed on Brexit altar

Another week, another twist in the Brexit saga, after the Supreme Court ruled that parliament must vote on whether the government can invoke Article 50 and start Brexit.

Though the Article 50 process should go ahead as planned, some MPs will be in awkward positions, caught between representing the views of their constituents, protecting local investment and respecting the democratic referendum process.

Sixty per cent of voters in West Somerset voted to leave the EU. In the aftermath of the vote, EDF Energy said there would be no impact on its Hinkley Point C project in the region.

Brexit beware

However, this week it emerged that in evidence submitted to the business, energy and industrial strategy committee, EDF has made clear that Brexit may indeed affect the perennially delayed scheme.

It will need to draw on skilled labour from the EU and across the world, the firm states, adding that restrictions on trade and the movement of labour will “increase the costs of new infrastructure developments and could delay their delivery”.

In EDF speak, that is about as transparent as you’ll get and should act as a stark warning for the project’s future. The politics of protecting a huge employer while respecting an electorate that wants to leave the EU are undoubtedly complex in Somerset.

Importance of EU workers

When looking at the numbers of EU nationals working here, consider them in the context of the government’s desire for economic growth based on improving infrastructure.

“On HS2, contractors have partnered with European firms to gain from their expertise, and the skills available”

In its industrial strategy green paper published this week, the government reiterated it was taking “strategic decisions on major projects such as Heathrow, Hinkley and HS2”. These projects will require more workers coming in from overseas, not fewer.

On HS2, contractors have partnered with European firms to gain from their expertise, and the skills available in building these projects.

Construction hasn’t started on a new nuclear power station here for almost 30 years. High-speed rail skills are plentiful in EU countries like France and Spain. Heathrow’s extension must learn from overseas projects and will require huge numbers of workers.

This country will need tens of thousands more UK and EU workers in the coming decade. If the UK is to grow, the government must protect EU workers on these shores.

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