NI ‘must con­trol own im­mi­gra­tion to head off post-Brexit worker short­age’

Belfast Telegraph - - BUSINESS - BY MAR­GARET CAN­NING

NORTH­ERN Ire­land should have con­trol of im­mi­gra­tion fol­low­ing Brexit so that busi­ness can re­spond to the need for labour in cer­tain sec­tors, it has been claimed.

Del­e­gates at a break­fast hosted by busi­ness ad­vis­ers KPMG and Ul­ster Busi­ness — a sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion of the Belfast Tele­graph — heard that job ap­pli­ca­tions from EU work­ers could take up to 57 months to process in a post-Brexit world.

But David Gav­aghan, chair­man of the CBI, said it was his view that North­ern Ire­land should ne­go­ti­ate so that it could take con­trol of key ar­eas of im­mi­gra­tion.

That could mean it could re­spond to the needs of sec­tors of the econ­omy, such as agri-food, which re­quire ac­cess to a large vol­ume of work­ers from the EU and beyond.

“Clearly a dis­cus­sion is tak­ing place on im­mi­gra­tion and a new pa­per is to be pub­lished, but we need to ask are there ar­range­ments to man­age the ad­min­is­tra­tive bur­den of that here?

“That would en­able us to re­spond in a prompt way.”

Key sec­tors in the econ­omy were de­pen­dent on a flow of EU work­ers, he said, with agri-food, health­care and hos­pi­tal­ity the most re­liant.

But he said that with the present ab­sence of a de­volved govern­ment, “ob­vi­ously there are chal­lenges” in ob­tain­ing fur­ther re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for any Ex­ec­u­tive.

And he said the con­tri­bu­tion of EU na­tion­als — and work­ers from around the globe — to the suc­cess of the econ­omy should be recog­nised.

Mr Gav­aghan, who runs the Aurora Prime Real Es­tate Fund, said he had been in touch with the two main par­ties, Sinn Fein and the DUP, over the need to re­store de­vo­lu­tion.

But he told yes­ter­day’s event that clar­ity was re­quired on Brexit.

“Un­til we have clar­ity then there is a worry. We need to get be­hind the de­tails,” Mr Gav­aghan added.

He said the fall in ster­ling since the EU ref­er­en­dum had brought a pos­i­tive im­pact on tourism, but that he wished to look for­ward.

“We need much more clar­ity as to what road we are go­ing down,” he said.

“What does Brexit mean? We need more cer­tainty and more un­der­stand­ing, oth­er­wise com­pa­nies will just have to take de­ci­sions, look­ing at var­i­ous op­tions and based on their judg­ment.”

He said his view was that there should not be a border between North­ern Ire­land and the Repub­lic.

“I would much rather not see the border re­turn,” he said.

“We have done so well over the last pe­riod of time to take the border away from our lives.

“Were it to be reim­posed, we should recog­nise that’s not a good thing.”

From left: Dr Eoin Ma­gen­nis (UU); Matt Higgins (HHD Solic­i­tors); David El­liott (Ul­ster Busi­ness), David Gav­aghan (CBI) and Johnny Hanna (KPMG) at event

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