Language schools in Hastings are calling on the town to vote remain in the EU referendum as Brexit would damage their business.
There are fears the removal of free movement would restrict students coming to the town to learn English, resulting in less money for the schools, the families that host them during their stay and the transport companies.
Hastings English Language Centre director Pru Knight said it would be a ‘disaster’ for her business if the UK left the EU.
“For us, I feel it would be a disaster on the business front as we deal with all our European partners,” she said.
“We have spoken to a few of them and they all say it would be detrimental to their clients coming over.
Ms Knight added: “I’m worried that we will vote to exit but in the long term, I don’t feel it would do us any good as there’s no going back.”
Karina Rasch from Senlac Tours said all of its students come from Europe and is worried a vote to leave the EU would mean the pupils would have to apply for visas.
“This would be a lot of work to organise,” she said.
“It would cost money and it would put off many of our students from coming to England.
“I think that local shops and attractions like the Smugglers Caves would notice the difference.”
Samantha Guertin, of Quarry Road, hosts students from Holland and Germany for a week at a time and makes them a packed lunch and an evening meal.
“Money from hosting European students did up our house,” she said.
“It’s an important part of our income. Loads of my friends do it. When you meet the students off the coach there are often five or six other people you know doing the same thing.
“For a lot of people it means they can be at home with young kids and still be earning.”
Students returning to Germany by coach from Falaise Road on Thursday, May 26 said they wanted to learn English ‘because you need English to get a good job, it’s the common language in Europe so it is very important’.
Hastings Borough Council has 18 language schools registered and they are estimated to bring £1.1bn a year to the UK economy, directly employ 2,300 people across the south east and contribute to 7,000 support jobs, according to a report by Capital Economics earlier this year.
Vote Leave has been contacted for comment.
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