Brexit deal “vital to keep Northern Ireland working”
As the Brexit deadline looms, a group of 21 businesses from the Northern Ireland community have joined forces to to call for measures to be put in place to prevent a labour crisis. Labour shortages are already affecting businesses' daily operations, the group says.
16 October 2018 | 0
Shrinking numbers of European workers in Northern Ireland are creating severe labour shortages which are critically affecting many businesses’ daily operations. To help with the situation,. local business organisations and representative bodies have joined forces on an unprecedented scale, writing to the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland requesting an urgent solution to a problem which could lead to the demise of many key industries.
Speaking on behalf of the 21 signatory organisations, Chair of CBI NI, Trevor Lockhart pointed out that the number of European Economic Area workers in Ireland has fallen by 26%. “This is having a major impact on industry here,” Lockhart said, “in particular the food processing, hospitality and construction sectors.
“We need access to non-EU workers to fill low-skilled positions as an immediate priority,” he said, “as well as a strategy to address gaps in higher-skills across various sectors.”
CBI NI has asked the British Home Office to recognise the need for regional flexibility to resolve the challenges faced by the sector. Facing similar pressures, the Republic has already introduced a sector-based scheme which grants visas to non-EU workers; without a similar approach for Northern Ireland, local businesses will face an even greater competitive threat, particularly as many sectors such as agri-food now work increasingly on an all-island basis.
“We need the UK and the EU to reach a Brexit deal,” Lockhart said. “That is crucial to Northern Ireland’s economic success and viability. There is now grave concern within the business community that in a ‘No-deal’ situation, the UK government would not be bound by any special undertakings, and Northern Ireland would suffer as a result.”