11/10/2018

NI Businesses Warn PM Of Brexit Economy Slump

Business groups in Northern Ireland have warned Prime Minister Theresa May of anticipated labour shortages prompted by Brexit that have the potential to shrink the economy by more than 9% in the next 20 years.

The warning was in a letter addressed to Theresa May, signed by representatives from 21 major business groups in NI.

The anticipated 9.1% drop in GDP comes from projections by CBI, a leading UK business group, and is a possible result of a decrease in labour migration from the EU and internationally.

The letter emphasises that Northern Ireland's economy is reliant on migrant labour.

The amount of European (EEA) workers in the United Kingdom has plummeted by 26% since the Brexit referendum in June 2016.

"Migrant labour is crucial to the success of the local economy," the letter states.

"It fills gaps in both low-level and high-level jobs and is particularly relevant to key sectors such as agri-food, hospitality, healthcare, manufacturing, construction, education and digital industries- hence the wide interest from the various signatories to this letter."
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The letter alludes to various issues raised in a recent report by the UK Migration Advisory Committee, that called for a cap on highly-skilled migrants to be removed, as workers of this level contribute to public finance. The report also calls for EU workers to be subjected to the same visa restrictions as workers from elsewhere.

"In an economy as fragile as ours this is simply unthinkable," the signatories said, adding that Northern Ireland's aging population is another aggravating factor.

The letter also backs the committee's recommendation of scrapping the cap on the number of skilled workers, and said a salary threshold of £30,000 for those wishing to emigrate to the UK cannot be justified and would "damage Northern Ireland's economy".

"We require regional flexibility for Northern Ireland to be developed through consultation with industry as soon as possible, with minimum salaries and quotas adapted in line with our specific regional needs," the letter reads.

Brexit negotiations are heading towards a crunch stage, with a summit to take place in Brussels next week, and a post-Brexit customs arrangement yetto be agreed.

The Government is expected to state its position on the backstop for Northern Ireland in the coming days.

The DUP has clearly outlined it's position, stating it will push back any deal that could potentially place economic barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

(JG)

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