Access to labour and migration - Brexit questions & answers

What is the Common Travel Area (CTA)?

The Common Travel Area (CTA) is a long-standing arrangement between the UK, the Crown Dependencies and Ireland.

It enables British and Irish citizens to move freely between these islands, and to enjoy associated rights in the UK and Ireland to work, study, vote in certain elections, access social welfare benefits and access health services.

Will people still be able to travel freely between Northern Ireland and Ireland after Brexit?

Yes.  If you are an Irish citizen living in the UK or a British citizen living in Ireland the Common Travel Area (CTA) arrangements allow you to travel freely within the CTA without seeking permission from the authorities.

Keeping the CTA arrangements means full protection and maintenance of the status quo for all journeys for individuals between the UK and Ireland.

What will happen to the CTA in a No Deal scenario?

In a No Deal scenario, Irish citizens would continue to have the right to enter and remain in the UK, as now.  They would also continue to enjoy the reciprocal rights associated with the CTA in the same way that British citizens in Ireland would if there is no deal.

Will the CTA impact on the UK’s recognition of qualifications obtained in Ireland?

The UK Government is committed to ensuring that, after the UK leaves the EU, adequate and comprehensive provisions continue to be in place for the recognition of professional qualifications obtained in Ireland. The Irish Government has also committed to working to ensure the provision of arrangements with the UK to recognise professional qualifications. The UK Government is working closely with Ireland in this area and will set out further details shortly.

What about the mutual recognition of professional qualifications with the rest of the EU?

Currently, the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications (MRPQ) Directive provides a reciprocal framework of rules which enables European Economic Area (EEA) (i.e. EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Swiss nationals to have their professional qualifications recognised in a state other than the one in which the qualification was obtained.

After 12 April, the MRPQ Directive will no longer apply to the UK. The UK will ensure that professionals arriving in the UK with EEA and Swiss qualifications after the exit date will have a means to seek recognition of their qualifications. The government has prepared legislation to update the Recognition of Professional Qualifications Regulations. This will bring a new system into force for exit day.

Further information on MRPQ can be found at the following link:

Why is migrant labour important to the NI Agri-food industry?

Northern Ireland has a relatively small labour market.  The flexibility which migration provides in terms of accessing skills has been of great benefit to the local economy.

The Agri-food and fisheries industries are substantially dependent on skilled labour from outside the UK, due to both the growth of the industry and the limited availability of UK workers.  Access to migrant labour will be vital to the future ambition of key industries in rural areas.

What would be the impact of a lack of migrant labour in NI?

The ending of free movement of labour with the EU could place the NI food processing sector at a disadvantage with that in Ireland. Were Northern Ireland employers to find themselves in a scenario where they had access to skills and labour on a more constrained basis than their Irish counterparts, there is a risk of Northern Ireland employers being forced to relocate activity south of the land border to maintain their competitive advantage.

In October 2018, DAERA published a report on ‘Migrant Labour in NI Agriculture’, which provides information on the number and origin of migrant workers employed in the agricultural sector in Northern Ireland.

How is DAERA trying to influence the UK Government’s immigration policy?

Immigration policy is a reserved matter. However, the NICS is working to ensure that NI’s unique circumstances, as the only part of the UK with a land border with Europe, is taken into consideration by the UK Government.  It is essential that the border dimension and its impact on the Northern Ireland economy are taken into account in the shaping and scoping of future UK immigration policy.

The NICS and NI stakeholders are actively engaged with the UK’s Migration and Advisory Committee (MAC) – providing views into its Report on EEA Migration in the UK, and more recently participating in roundtable discussions on the review of the Shortage Occupation List’s composition.

Details on the MAC’s role and its recent commissions can be found at:

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