Post-Brexit migration controls must reflect particular challenges facing food industry in Northern Ireland
September 7th: Sean McKeever, Unite Regional Officer with responsibility for members in the agri-food sector responded to details of a leaked draft government paper on restricting EU migration.
“This leaked draft paper is highly concerning. The government does not appear to recognise the particular challenges facing the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland where moves to end EU migration would result in substantial disinvestment, job-losses and economic dislocation.
“The Westminster government’s approach appears to be based on ‘back of the envelope’ calculations – it is certainly not rooted in a thoroughgoing analysis of the impact on the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland.
“Employers like Moy Park and Dunbia employ thousands of EU migrant workers across Northern Ireland, many in sites located in border areas. At the very least, ending EU migration here would result in a loss of future investment; at worst it might result in the relocation of production to the Republic of Ireland or accelerated job-losses through increased mechanisation.
“Moves to make EU migration illegal will also encourage the growth of the black economy where already migrant workers are exploited by criminals who use their cheap labour to undercut legitimate employers.
“Very many of those EU migrant workers in our agri-food industry are members of Unite. They have come here to make a future for themselves and contribute very substantially to the local economy. Moves by the Conservative government to criminalise them are completely unacceptable.
“It is vital that the Westminster government devise post-Brexit migration controls which take cognisance of the particular challenges facing the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland. To that end, it is essential that our local political parties come together with a single voice on behalf of Northern Ireland – the most exposed region of the UK – in the ongoing Brexit negotiations”, Mr McKeever said.