Ulster Unionist Party Leader, Robin Swann MLA, has welcomed reports that the Home Secretary Sajid Javid is preparing to ditch the Government’s plans for a £30,000 salary threshold for EU migrants after Brexit.
The minimum salary level had caused serious concern for the local agri-food sector as local companies and fruit and vegetable farms would have found it almost impossible to recruit sufficient numbers of full-time or flexible workers.
Mr Swann said: “When the British people voted to leave the European Union they also categorically chose to end the free movement of people. Whilst there is no doubt that the United Kingdom has benefited enormously from the flow of labour across the European Union in the past, I agree that it is time now for the UK to take charge of our own borders once again.
“Last December the UK Government published its plans of a future skills-based immigration system in a new white paper. Whilst there was much in it that I agreed with – especially the emphasis placed on attracting only the immigrants with the right skills and talents – the plan was fundamentally flawed by the requirement that migrants needed to earn at least £30,000 to work in the UK post-Brexit.
“Many parts of the local agri-food sector, such as horticulture, our read meat processing factories and of course Moy Park, are all heavily dependent on EU workers. Many of these posts however do not attract a salary of £30,000 so a shortage of labour could have ended up bringing some of our biggest employers to a standstill, with potentially significant implications for their hundreds of local growers and suppliers.
“The Home Secretary’s latest letter to the UK’s Migration Advisory Committee, in which he is effectively scrapping the £30,000 minimum threshold, will therefore come as a major relief to the local industry.
“The UK Government must move quickly now though to take the final decisions to reassure businesses that they will continue to have access to sufficient labour in the months and years ahead.”