Election 2017: Factory workers at Thetford-based Centurion quiz cabinet minister Elizabeth Truss about rights for EU nationals post-Brexit

Justice secretary and South West Norfolk Conservative parliamentary candidate Elizabeth Truss visits

Justice secretary and South West Norfolk Conservative parliamentary candidate Elizabeth Truss visits Centurion in Thetford, where she toured the factory and took questions from workers in the staff canteen. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH - Credit: Archant

Concerned factory workers at a Thetford company known for its diverse workforce questioned a leading cabinet minister about whether they and their colleagues would have the right to stay in Britain after Brexit.

Justice secretary and South West Norfolk Conservative parliamentary candidate Elizabeth Truss visits

Justice secretary and South West Norfolk Conservative parliamentary candidate Elizabeth Truss visits Centurion in Thetford, where she toured the factory and took questions from workers in the staff canteen. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH - Credit: Archant

Justice secretary Elizabeth Truss sought to reassure staff at Thetford-based manufacturer and helmet maker Centurion that prime minister Theresa May is working to secure their futures.

But at a question and answer session in the canteen at the company's Howlett Way headquarters, she said: 'The prime minister has made clear it's an early priority to get that sorted.'

However Ms Truss said: 'We can't give that guarantee unless we get the same guarantee for British nationals abroad.'

And she urged those gathered to 'give us the job to get on with it' after facing questions about why Mrs May had called a general election just two years after the last one.

Justice secretary and South West Norfolk Conservative parliamentary candidate Elizabeth Truss visits

Justice secretary and South West Norfolk Conservative parliamentary candidate Elizabeth Truss visits Centurion in Thetford, where she toured the factory and took questions from workers in the staff canteen. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH - Credit: Archant


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'If we had an election in 2020, it would put her in a very difficult position with the negotiations,' Ms Truss said.

'She needed a mandate so she could go into those negotiations in a much stronger position.'

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In a wide-range of questions, workers also quizzed the South West Norfolk Conservative parliamentary candidate about the NHS, housing and pensions.

But Brexit was a key concern for the workforce, with Ms Truss also pressed on the need for a trade deal.

Justice secretary and South West Norfolk Conservative parliamentary candidate Elizabeth Truss visits

Justice secretary and South West Norfolk Conservative parliamentary candidate Elizabeth Truss visits Centurion in Thetford, where she toured the factory and took questions from workers in the staff canteen. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH - Credit: Archant

'The relationship we want to get with the EU is the best possible trade deal,' she explained, adding that she wanted the 'minimum amount of hassle' for British firms exporting overseas.

Jeff Ward, chief executive at Centurion, said Brexit is a key concern for many at the company, even if it is too early too tell whether it will be good or bad for business.

He said the firm has a 'wonderfully diverse set of people' looking for reassurance about the future, adding: 'We want to make sure our employees are very optimistic staying here and growing with the company.'

He also said: 'We want to make sure trade deals are in place.'

Justice secretary and South West Norfolk Conservative parliamentary candidate Elizabeth Truss visits

Justice secretary and South West Norfolk Conservative parliamentary candidate Elizabeth Truss visits Centurion in Thetford, where she toured the factory and took questions from workers in the staff canteen. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH - Credit: Archant

He was encouraged by Ms Truss' explanation of how the government planned to help British businesses showcase their potential, so they can trade around the world.

Mr Ward also gave Ms Truss a helmet made by Centurion as a gift.

Justice secretary and South West Norfolk Conservative parliamentary candidate Elizabeth Truss visits

Justice secretary and South West Norfolk Conservative parliamentary candidate Elizabeth Truss visits Centurion in Thetford, where she toured the factory and took questions from workers in the staff canteen. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH - Credit: Archant

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