The United Kingdom has finally left the EU and with this, a new points-based immigration system is welcomed. This means that noncitizens’ eligibility to work in the UK will be determined by scoring above a 70-point threshold in a scoring system based on factors including salary, English proficiency, qualification and skills.  

A recent Westminster policy statement claims that the UK should shift its reliance on EU-labour to focus on investment in technology and automation.  This new system is hoped to attract the “brightest and best people from the whole world” to work and live in the UK. This new policy will not bear any practical implications between the UK and EU until the 1st January 2021 nor shall it affect the Common Travel Area between RoI and NI.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) have suggested the British government lower the salary threshold from £30,000 to £26,500 and to give special considerations to Northern Ireland as it uniquely borders an EU state and has the lowest median full-time salary in the UK of £18,000. This means that even migrants earning an above average salary in NI will struggle to meet this threshold and job vacancies will unlikely be filled. 

In Northern Ireland, 60% of all migrant workers are from the EU Member States compared to just 40% across the UK. Considering the MAC estimated that 70% of current EU migrant workers in the UK would not qualify to work there under the new system, Northern Ireland is in high risk of experiencing a labour crash. This will result in unfilled job vacancies and hindrance to business growth and development, particularly in sectors that NI citizens show no interest in working in. 

“Very little in the UK Government’s attitude indicates that Northern Ireland’s interests are at the top of its priority list. The attitude of the UK Government in relation to its immigrant policy is only the latest evidence of this – and part of the reason why Brexit … is actually likely to put the Union between England and the other component nations of the United Kingdom under increased strain,” claims Dr. Gavin Barret, UCD Sutherland School of Law, “UK Home Secretary Priti Patel declared that the UK’s proposed points-based rules will be an opportunity for 8.48million ‘economically inactive’ UK nationals to join the workforce. The problem is that according to the UK Office for National Statistics, the bulk of this 8.48m are students, long-term sick and disabled, looking after their family or home, retired or temporarily sick. In other words, they are not available for work at all: only 1.87m who would like a job and do not have one,” indicating a “triumph of politics over economics.”


Rob Ó Beacháin – Law Editor