Leaving the European Union would put the £100 million language school sector in Brighton and Hove at risk, the Liberal Democrats have warned.
The party said that language schools depended on the free movement of students from Europe who come to Brighton for a short time to learn English.
Lib Dems fear that a “Brexit” – a British exit – could threaten a sector that they said contributed £100 million a year to the Brighton and Hove economy and £150 million across Sussex.
Lawrence Eke, who runs the ISE schools based in Brighton and Hove, said: “There are over 30 EFL (English as a Foreign Language) Schools in Brighton and Hove, employing hundreds of staff and putting millions into supplier businesses and households of local families through home-stay accommodation.
“The government has already introduced major changes for non-EU students which has effectively caused students from Russia, Japan and South Korea to go elsewhere.
“Now this referendum threatens the ability for EU students to come here. This important sector of the local economy depends on free movement of European students keen to learn English.
“A vote to leave the EU would cause the closures of most EFL schools and substantially reduce the income they inject into the local economy.
“Moreover our membership in the EU and the opportunities that it creates is an important motivation for our students to learn English in the first place.”
Michael Wilbur, who chairs the Brighton and Hove Lib Dems, said: “Of course, the campaign to stay in the EU is about jobs. But it’s more than that. It’s about whether we want to be an intellectually curious and outward looking country open for business, or whether we want to turn in on ourselves and cut off opportunities provided by Europe and the wider world.”
This data comes from early findings from a report that the Brighton and Hove Lib Dems are conducting on the impact of the EU in Brighton and Hove.
The Lib Dems believe that highlighting the many benefits of the EU brings will help residents to make sense of national arguments in favour of staying in the union.
And they expect the report to show that the EU is an essential tool for promoting prosperity, opportunity, security and the environment in the city.
To take part in the Lib Dem survey, click here.