COUNTY civic chiefs have promised to protect the jobs of European nationals it employs as part of plans to mitigate the impacts of Brexit.

Conservative council leader Roy Perry told members that the authority “will do what we can” to ensure jobs are protected, adding “they’re welcome here; they’re welcomed here”.

It comes after a report on how Brexit will impact Hampshire County Council was discussed at its Cabinet meeting.

Members also suggested that issues including imports and exports from county ports - mainly Portsmouth, could be another major impact.

But opposition councillors criticised its “inward looking” nature, suggesting the authority should have focused more on the impacts of the county and its residents rather than its own services.

Yet, civic chiefs rebutted this, adding that the report looks at the impact of council services which affects its residents.

Speaking about job concerns, Cllr Perry added: “We will do what we can as their employer to help them.

“As things currently stand, there should be no problems. But if there are, we will take the responsibility as their employer seriously.”

Currently, the authority employs around 300 non-UK European Union (EU) workers.

However, the report also noted concerns raised over a “No Deal” Brexit. This included issues about managing customs and checks at the county’s European borders, such as Portsmouth’s port - mainly the consequences of what any delays may have on Hampshire’s roads.

It added that a no deal could also mean Portsmouth would see it having to manage additional traffic from Dover, due to the predicted backlog at the major port. This would result in “significant” delays, officers warn.

But the report also noted that the impact on Southampton’s port is of less concern, due to 90% of its exports going to non-EU markets.

Nevertheless, it adds that the full impact of leaving the EU “will only start to become clear” once the current draft Withdrawal Agreement has been worked through.

“Undoubtedly, there are issues that need to be addressed between now and March,” Cllr Perry added.

“This is what this report looks at.”

But Liberal Democrat member Councillor Adrian Collett cited his frustration at a lost opportunity to look at the impacts of the county as a whole, and not just the authority.

He said: “I’m disappointed as this is an inward looking report rather than an outward looking one. This was an opportunity to look at how the council would be affected by Brexit, not just how the county council would be.

“We need to be cautious about the rose-tinted glasses [of a good Brexit deal].”