24 September 2018

  |  CBI Northern Ireland

Press release

Restricting European migration post-Brexit could decrease NI regional GDP by 9.1%

CBI Northern Ireland has today launched a new report ‘All Together Better: Accessible Labour – a Necessity for Regional Economic Prosperity’ which highlights the acute need for local private and public-sector employers to have continued access to the people and skills they need to succeed post-Brexit.

Restricting European migration post-Brexit could decrease NI regional GDP by 9.1%

Citing NI’s demographic challenges, alongside the persistent exodus of young people to study and work outside the region, the report demonstrates how NI employers have become reliant on a steady inflow of international workers provided by EU membership and the Common Travel Area.

Firms are extremely concerned about proposals to reduce migration levels into the UK to the ‘tens of thousands’ in a post-Brexit settlement. Applying in-depth economic research, All Together Better identifies several key findings:

  • Northern Ireland’s economy faces a much greater economic impact from reduced migration relative to the rest of the UK
  • A scenario featuring a 50% reduction in EU inward migration only would decrease Northern Ireland’s GDP by 5.3% by 2041  
  • A low inward migration scenario for both EU and international workers would decrease Northern Ireland’s GDP by 9.1% by 2041 
  • Under these same scenarios, the working age population in Northern Ireland would shrink by around 6% and 8% respectively
  • Changing demographics and a reduced access to migrant workers will impact some Northern Irish sub-regions, such as Derry & Strabane and Armagh City, Craigavon & Banbridge more than others

Speaking at the launch of the report, CBI NI Director Angela McGowan said:

“Northern Ireland faces a number of specific challenges when it comes to access to skills. With the workforce set to shrink further in years to comes, both as a result of demographic changes and Brexit, NI’s current skills gaps – both high skilled and low skilled - in areas like education, healthcare, hospitality, agri-food and digital industries look set to be exacerbated causing long term damage to the economy.

“The Migration Advisory Committee report, published last week, identified significant challenges for Northern Ireland if access to low skilled labour was restricted negatively impacting our agri-food sector and a creating a risk that NI firms could relocate to the Republic of Ireland to ensure continued access to migrant skills.”

All Together Better also includes several key recommendations for a post-Brexit immigration system, which ensures NI employers can continue to access the people and skills they need:  

  • Allow firms of all sizes to benefit from better access to people and skills from the EU and around the world
  • Allow firms to have access to willing workers of all skill levels
  • Focus on forming strong linkages with people from the EU and across the world as Northern Ireland seeks to create and enhance external trade
  • Recognise that continued access to migrant labour, as well as skills, is required to avoid critical shortages across all sectors – public and private
  • Allow firms to continue to easily move staff to and from Europe under any new system that replaces free movement

Ms McGowan commented further:

“Recently the Migration Advisory Committee identified the challenges around migration but failed to offer any solutions. Retaining the £30,000 salary threshold remains unreasonable as it blocks many essential workers from coming to Northern Ireland given the prevailing lower average regional salaries for many sectors.

“It’s therefore vitally important that whatever immigration system we adopt post-Brexit fulfils a number of basic tests. It must be open, controlled and work for all parts of the UK, whilst recognising the specific challenges we all face in Northern Ireland.”

Report available: http://www.cbi.org.uk/insight-and-analysis/all-together-better/