13 August 2018

  |  CBI Northern Ireland

Press release

Business welcomes immigration discussion with Minister Caroline Nokes - CBI Northern Ireland

CBI Northern Ireland convened a roundtable meeting with Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes on Friday to outline the specific needs of Northern Ireland in any post-Brexit immigration system.

Business welcomes immigration discussion with Minister Caroline Nokes - CBI Northern Ireland

With an unemployment rate of 3.5% between March and May - compared to 4.2% for the UK as a whole - and an ageing population, demand for talent across all skills levels reaching critical levels for ambitious Northern Irish companies that want to invest and grow. Skill shortages are currently creating huge competition in the local labour market.

EU workers make an enormous contribution to the NI economy, with universities, hospitals and business sectors such as agri-food, tourism, hospitality and construction all hugely dependent on access to qualified and experienced staff from across Europe.

One of the things that makes the NI labour market so unique is the ability to draw on workers living in the Republic of Ireland – whilst commitment from both sides to preserving the Common Travel Area is welcome, a comprehensive agreement that supports frontier workers must be included in the new economic relationship between the UK and the EU.

Securing a good deal on post-Brexit migration for the whole of the UK would obviously reduce the need for any bespoke arrangements or flexibility to be granted to Northern Ireland to address specific skills and labour shortages.

On Friday the CBI published a report calling for an ‘open and controlled’ immigration system that can work for all parts of the UK.

CBI NI Director Angela McGowan said:

“With access to skills and labour so essential to the NI economy, it’s really important for the local business community to be able to communicate these concerns to the Minister directly – particularly in the absence of devolved government.

“Immigration sits alongside resolving the Irish Border as the top priority for Northern Ireland in Brexit negotiations – reassuring EU nationals living in the UK that they can stay in the event of ‘no deal’ and ensuring that business can continue to access people and skills is essential for economic success.

“The CBI has advanced a vision for what a post-Brexit immigration system could look like, one which prioritises both business needs and public confidence – government must acknowledge the weight of evidence supporting this sort of system.”

See CBI’s new report Open and controlled