The number of migrant workers in Northern Ireland (NI) from countries within the EU’s Single Market has fallen by 26% since the Brexit referendum in June 2016.

Leaders from 21 business organisations in NI, including several from the agri-food industry, have written to prime minister Theresa May to highlight their concerns about the availability of labour.


“A combination of exchange rate movements and the uncertainty facing migrants to the UK, has meant that fewer EEA workers are coming to Northern Ireland and more are leaving,” the letter reads.

Signatories of the letter include Ulster Farmers’ Union president Ivor Ferguson, NI Meat Exporters’ Association chief executive Conall Donnelly, NI Food and Drink Association chair Brian Irwin and NI Grain Trade Association chief executive Robin Irvine.

The first signatory listed is Confederation of British Industry (NI) chair and Fane Valley chief executive Trevor Lockhart.

NI solutions

The letter states that with a tight labour market in NI, there is a risk that companies operating on both sides of the Irish border will switch their focus to facilities in the Republic of Ireland.

The letter states that local industries have continually raised concerns over the past 12 months

The business organisations have asked the prime minister that solutions to the problem have NI flexibility to reflect differences in lower average regional salaries in NI compared with the rest of the UK.

The letter states that local industries have continually raised concerns with both the migration advisory committee and the UK government for the past 12 months.

“At no stage in the last year, have we received any indication that here has been serious consideration given to the solutions required to address our concerns,” the business organisations said.

“We are appealing for your support to deliver solutions to this worsening problem,” the letter to Theresa May reads.

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