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Building the Post-Brexit Immigration System

Published on: 7 July 2017

A new report – Building the Post-Brexit Immigration System: An analysis of shortages, scenarios and choices –  has highlighted the significant impact that Brexit could have on Northern Ireland companies employing EU nationals.

The Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) report seeks to offer ‘a balanced, comprehensive, evidence-based overview’ of the current situation regarding immigration and Brexit.  It also looks at how and why different sectors rely on EU workers, what the prospects are for these sectors to adapt to a reduced labour supply of EU workers, and how different policies could meet these needs.

The report makes a series of recommendations that will ensure the best outcome for employers of EU nationals in the Northern Ireland and GB, including:

  • Agree a sensible settlement for those EU nationals already working in the UK (and, in turn, UK nationals based in other UK states);
  • To help ensure clarity, a transitional immigration system should be introduced;
  • Focus on speed, cost and predictability (the hallmarks of a good immigration system) in designing the new system;
  • An immigration policy that recognises and supports low, medium and high-skilled jobs in the UK;
  • With record levels of employment, a new immigration system must take into account the need for the UK to retain its flexible labour market;
  • The future immigration system must be evidence-led and free from day-to-day political pressure.

Commenting on the report, 4c Executive Founder & Manager Director, Gary Irvine – a director and former Chairman of the REC – said:

“The impact of the UK’s exit from the EU on Northern Ireland businesses will be significant. Although EU nationals make up only a relatively small percentage of the workforce in NI, they are highly concentrated in particular sectors, occupations and regions here.  For example, a fifth of manufacturing workers in Northern Ireland are EU nationals.

“It is absolutely critical that business leaders, politicians and policy makers in Northern Ireland understand the risks and opportunities that Brexit brings for the labour market and, in turn, have their say in influencing the UK government’s development of an immigration system that is fit for purpose.”

The research for the report was funded by the REC, with quantitative and qualitative analysis carried out by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI).  Fragomen LLP convened the focus group, provided expert practitioner insights and policy advice, and wrote the chapter contained within the report on the UK labour market.

A full copy of the report can be resourced by visiting:



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