Govt Immigration Plans Threaten NI- Alliance

The UK Government immigration proposals for a points-based system have come under fire, with local concerns over tourism, retail, agri-food and social care being raised.

The system would mean low-skilled workers would not receive visas after the UK leaves the EU.

Freedom of movement would come to an end with only "highly-skilled" workers permitted to live and work in the UK.

Alliance MP Stephen Farry said the proposals pose a particular threat to Northern Ireland. The party is seeking special mitigations for the region.

"There is nothing wrong with the existing freedom of movement arrangement with the EU and wider immigration policy," the north Down MP said.

"Migration has helped our economy and enriched our society, and it is important we continually challenge the myths that exist around it.

"These proposals are a particular threat for Northern Ireland. A one-size fits all approach doesn't work. The salary thresholds will bring challenges for key sectors such as retail, hospitality and tourism, agri-food, and social care. Salary levels are not always a reliable indicator of skills.
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"Keeping an open door to Europe and beyond while investing in skills and addressing economic inactivity are not mutually exclusive. A healthy and flexible economy needs to see both.

"There is a real danger of these immigration changes posing a further challenge to our economy. I will be doing all I can to counteract this."

Concerns have also been raised among local retail chiefs.

Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said the plans don't go far enough for local retail, wholesale and hospitality sectors.

"It is clear that the UK Government is not listening to the repeated concerns expressed by the business community in Northern Ireland," Mr Roberts said.

"EU nationals make a significant and welcome contribution right across our supply chain, with production, wholesaling and retail. The proposed salary threshold will have a hugely negative impact on all of these key industries.

"Northern Ireland has a unique position given the border and the UK Government cannot simply adopt a 'one size fits all' approach.

"We would urge the Economy Minister to make immediate representation to the UK Government to change these ill thought out plans."

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