More clarity needed before council can offer post-Brexit support

Mike Bell of the Liberal Democrats.

Mike Bell of the Liberal Democrats. - Credit: Sub

North Somerset Council voted against a proposal to begin supporting European Union (EU) citizens living in the district ahead of Brexit.

Net migration has fallen in North Somerset after the Brexit vote.

Net migration has fallen in North Somerset after the Brexit vote. - Credit: Archant

Cllr Mike Bell proposed the motion at a North Somerset Council meeting on November 13 for the authority to provide relevant support to those who will be affected when Britain leaves the EU.

An estimated 7,000 people from EU countries live in the district, but as Brexit is not due to take place until March 29 next year, councillors voted to look at the matter again closer to that time.

MORE: Bad Brexit could hit staffing of NHS, warns CCG chief.

Cllr Bell said: “Brexit remains controversial but I think it is important for us to reassure people we can help them out.

“Many EU residents are employed locally and pay council tax, they are faced with a huge amount of uncertainty and are worried about it in respect of their children’s education and the support services available to them.

“When we talk about projects in 2019 we are already doing work for them so the idea this motion is premature is ludicrous.

“It would be shameful if we do not prepare to put in place appropriate measures.”

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The Mercury reported in September the uncertainty around Brexit has prompted a fall in net migration in North Somerset.

Data from the Office for National Statistics recorded 751 people immigrated to the district from mid-2016 to mid-2017, compared to the 844 who moved in the 12 months preceding the 2016 referendum.

Council leader Nigel Ashton called the motion ‘premature’ as at this stage in the Brexit negotiations ‘no-one knows exactly what is going to happen’.

On Friday Stephen Barclay was named the new Brexit Secretary in place of Dominic Raab in the latest of staff shake-ups as the draft withdrawal agreement for Britain to leave the EU was published.

Cllr Mark Canniford said: “A lot of people who will be affected by Brexit live and work in our town centres, they shop locally and make a massive contribution to our communities.

“This council should make people feel comfortable that North Somerset is a place they want to be living in the future.”

Cllr Denise Hunt added: “These are people who live in our communities and we are sending the wrong message.”