18 October 2018

  |  CBI Press Team

Update

Post-Brexit immigration on the menu at CBI South West Annual Dinner

Celebrating businesses across the South West region and highlighting the importance of an open and controlled migration system after Brexit will be on the agenda at CBI South-West Annual Dinner.

Post-Brexit immigration on the menu at CBI South West Annual Dinner

CBI South West Director Deborah Fraser, speaking before an audience of hundreds of business leaders at Bristol’s Marriott Hotel, will highlight the importance of low and high skilled workers from overseas for the region’s economy, together with the benefits from linking migration with trade.

Meanwhile, Susan Davy, Pennon Group CFO and CBI South West chair, will use her speech to praise the region’s diverse and successful business community.

This year’s sponsors of the CBI South West Annual Dinner include Santander, Burges Salmon, University of Plymouth and Pennon Group.

On the importance of migration for the South-West Economy, Deborah Fraser, CBI South-West director, will say:

“When people talk about the economy of the South-West, they talk about the brilliant tech companies and university spin-offs. From Marine technologies in Plymouth, Aerospace in Bristol and Somerset, to supercomputing in Exeter and nuclear at Hinkley.

“But the South West is home to more than robotics and science. Because if England has a food and drink heart, it is here, in the South West.

“It’s not just the farms but the whole supply chain. From the fields to the processing plants to logistics firms which connect everything and carry produce to markets here and abroad. This work might lack the glitz and glamour of aerospace and digital. But, I mention these things to celebrate them.

“For the agri-food sector of the South West migration matters. At the CBI’s recent Food and Drink Forum, it was revealed that EU workers make up between 45-95% of the workforce of our producers. From brassicas to fish processing, cheese and yogurt manufacturing. No other sector has a higher migrant workforce.”

On migration, Deborah will say:

“The recent MAC report dispelled three of the greatest migration myths, it found no evidence that European migrants have reduced jobs for UK workers. That there was little, if any, impact on wages. And that European migrants pay far more in tax than they take out.

“When the Prime Minister last visited India to seek a free trade agreement the response was clear. You must make it easier for Indian nationals to work in the UK. There’s a lesson there. Countries value access to work in this country.

“Putting migration on the negotiating table would be a powerful bargaining chip to strike better deals.”

On the need for workers with varying skills, Deborah will say:

“It’s a myth that South West can get by without all different skill levels in our work force. That the only workers we need are those with permanent jobs, high salaries and university degrees.

“It’s important to recognise 99% of seasonal agricultural workers are from the EU. “The MAC report floats the idea that technology could replace many workers.

“Firms are investing in technology, from robot apple pickers to mechanical celery harvesters. But, for many areas the technology does not yet exit.

“The processes are just too complex. So, if our farms and everyone who depends on them are to continue to thrive we need access to workers from abroad.”

Susan Davy, CFO at Pennon Group and CBI South West chair, said:

“From aerospace to finance, from manufacturing to food and drink, the South-West region has a rich and diverse business community.

“UK business is facing new and increasing pressures on a variety of fronts, in unprecedented ways. But, at the same time, we have a huge amount of untapped potential. The South-West region has not been prioritised for the level of investment enjoyed by others.

“There are clear challenges that transcend all business types and sectors – the need for better transport and digital infrastructure, the need to boost skills and productivity.”