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Event staffing concern is "injecting fear" into EU debate

Session at The Meetings Show asked whether the EU referendum was a ‘step into the light or step into the dark'

Pictured: The Eventhuddle panellists (from left) Chris Heaton-Harris, Nick De Bois, moderator Kevin Jackson, Alan Newton and Simon Hughes

Concerns over event staffing levels were dismissed as ‘injecting fear’ into the EU debate at the latest industry panel discussion into the EU referendum.

Held in a packed conference room at London’s Olympia during The Meetings Show, the Eventhuddle session asked whether next week’s vote would be a ‘step into the light or step into the dark’. Panellists were drawn from both the leave and remain camps, with Business Visits & Events Partnership vice-chair Simon Hughes and Eventopedia founder Alan Newton on the remain side, and for leave MP for Daventry Chris Heaton-Harris, and former All Party Parliamentary Group for events chair Nick De Bois. 

Hughes argued that event staffing could the area of most concern for the sector. He said: “To leave, in the longer term, will make life harder and more complex and more difficult for those working in the events sector.

“We have 800,000 polish nationals here in the UK, 100,000 of whom work in the hospitality sector, service our events and look after our delegates and our guests. If we make a change and make them not as welcome as we have been, who is going to take those jobs?”

Heaton-Harris, who also argued a Brexit would result in greater trading opportunities, responded that those Europeans living and working here would not be at risk of being told to leave. “You are trying to put fear into the argument,” he countered. “At the moment we discriminate against anyone from outside the EU in favour of those inside it. It would be better to bring in skilled workers rather than anyone from the EU.”

Funding and regeneration of deprived areas was described as a positive for the remain argument, when Newton spoke of EU funding for his home town Liverpool - a city “on its arse” when he grew up there.

“The EU was the largest single contributor to the ACC (Arena & Convention Centre) Liverpool, which has now generated £1 billion for the economy,” Newton said. “I almost trust the EU to spend the money better than the UK government after what it has done for Liverpool in the past few years.”

Heaton-Harris argued that such funding comes out the pot the UK already pays into, and gets it back with instructions on how to spend it.

De Bois added: “It’s about whom makes the decisions on your behalf. If you do not like a government, you can change it. The EU is self-appointing. The power does not rest with the (European) parliament; it rests with the commission and the presidents who are unelected. You cannot get rid of them. I believe in the process of kicking out those you don’t want.”

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