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Bury St Edmunds employers support staff as EU Settlement Scheme opens

Businesses and organisations across west Suffolk are gearing up to support staff as they negotiate a new EU settlement scheme.

EU citizens living in the UK can now apply for settled and pre-settled status after the scheme opened for its public testing phase on Monday.

But at many firms there is uncertainty about how they might be affected by post-Brexit changes.

UK Settlement stock photo...PICTURE: Mecha Morton... (6715100)
UK Settlement stock photo...PICTURE: Mecha Morton... (6715100)

Karine Canevet, patron of Maison Bleue, in Churchgate Street, Bury St Edmunds, said every member of the restaurant’s 12-strong team would need to apply.

“We have no idea if this will affect our business. We are in a grey zone and have been for about two years. Not knowing where you stand has been difficult to cope with," she said.

“We are a French restaurant so we employ French people. I am sure we will be able to carry on that way but with a no-deal we don’t know where we stand. This is a problem facing the entire hospitality industry.”

Andrew Blenkiron, Euston Estate director, said Euston did not directly employ any EU citizens, however a number of businesses connected to the estate did.

“We do employ EU citizens on a casual basis and they are vital to our business continuity. It makes complete sense to me to support those who want to stay through this proposal,” he added.

EU citizens have until June 2021 to apply for settled status in the UK as the post-Brexit registration scheme is rolled out.

EU nationals and their families who wish to remain in the country beyond the deadline must apply to the scheme, which opens fully on March 30. On Monday, Prime Minister Theresa May announced a planned £65 charge would be scrapped.

Jan Bloomfield, executive director of workforce at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said staff were being supported through the settlement application process, with briefings and question and answer sessions.

"We employ a number of staff from the European Economic Area who do superb work here at the hospital and in our community services. Long may that continue, they are extremely valued," she said.

Mark Cordell, chief executive of business improvement district organisation Our Bury St Edmunds, said: “Obviously the whole issue of Brexit is an emotive one, but from our members’ perspective I would not want to see a situation whereby any changes detrimentally affect their businesses and, therefore, their customers too.

“Bury is a very diverse community, with many of our businesses employing non-UK nationals. In some cases there is real concern that these changes could have a very negative impact which will affect the Bury St Edmunds brand as a whole.”

A spokesman for British Sugar said: "We will support any of our employees who are EU nationals and wish to apply for settled status.We do not anticipate any issues with labour at our sites as a result of Brexit."

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