25 September 2023

PS warned of Brexit brain drain

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The head of the Northern Ireland Public Service, David Sterling has warned that the UK’s exit from the European Union (Brexit) could lead to a brain drain of workers in both the public and the private sectors of the Province.

Mr Sterling said a significant number of talented employees might choose to move south of the border into the Republic of Ireland, “restricting our efforts to grow the economy”.

In a seven-page letter to the UK Government’s Migration Advisory Committee, Mr Sterling outlined the potential impact of a stricter migration system when the UK leaves the European Union.

He said immigration has “added diversity and a maturity to Northern Ireland society” and this “should not be undermined”.

Mr Sterling said that in an economic downturn, more people typically leave Northern Ireland to live in Britain than the other way round.

“However, in the context of EU exit, this picture could present an additional risk to the local labour market if, for example, restrictions were placed on international workers coming here and if that was compounded by vacancies in Great Britain attracting additional labour from Northern Ireland,” Mr Sterling said.

“The local labour market may be further impacted post EU exit by vacancies in the Republic of Ireland attracting more indigenous labour away from Northern Ireland than is currently the case.”

With PS employees left in charge of Government Departments since the collapse of the power-sharing Executive more than a year ago, Mr Sterling stressed that his letter “has been drafted by officials and seeks to reflect the views of a diverse range of local stakeholders, but it has had no political input”.

Belfast, 7 April 2018

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