Reacting to the Government White Paper on immigration published today, Lisa Bryson, Head of the Employment & Immigration practice at Eversheds Sutherland in Belfast commented:
“The White Paper may provide some comfort to businesses in Northern Ireland that our voices have not been ignored. The proposed new skills-based immigration system in the UK post-Brexit, builds on the existing one but accommodates the changes necessarily caused by withdrawal from the EU and the end of freedom of movement. There are commitments to seek to ensure that the future system works for every part of the UK, to look at whether there is a need for a specific Northern Ireland ‘Shortage Occupational List’, and to understand concerns linked to the unique nature of the border with the Republic.
“Many suggestions in the White Paper regarding business immigration would be positive for our clients. The removal of the quota, the end of the resident labour market test, assistance to students seeking to remain and greater possibility to apply in-country for permission to work would all reduce the regulatory burdens on businesses.
“Of course in Northern Ireland not only do we rely on skilled migrant labour but we also have a high reliance on unskilled migrant labour in certain sectors including agriculture, food processing and hospitality. Although the White Paper indicates an intention to accept the MAC’s recommendation that there is no requirement for a route specifically for low skilled workers, it does go on to expressly acknowledge that the future immigration system must work for every nation, region and community in the UK. Our concern remains the proposals regarding lower-skilled workers and whether the suggested visa route contained in the White Paper would adequately serve those who rely heavily on large numbers of EEA staff. We hope the consultation period referenced in the White Paper will allow evidence of the impact of this in Northern Ireland to be fully assessed.”