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Overseas workers policy ignores concerns of Northern Ireland business

Britain's proposed immigration policy is an indication of the hardline, uncompromising approach we can expect from Boris Johnson's government in the post-EU era.

Not only does it take little account of the important role overseas workers play in the economy of the UK but sends out a message that in the prime minister's brave new world, those who may have limited English language or lack formal qualifications but want to work hard, support their families and build a good life in Britain, are not wanted.

Rather then welcome the diversity of talent and enterprise that could enrich British life, this government takes an insular, narrow and short-sighted view of the outside world.

Indeed, the policy drawn up and presented by home secretary Priti Patel yesterday would have seen the exclusion of many immigrants - her own parents among them - who arrived in the UK in years past and made a positive contribution to society.

Under the proposals, people who want to live and work in the UK will need to gain 70 points to be able to apply for a visa. Points will be awarded for certain qualifications and skills while the minimum salary threshold will be £25,600.

There is no doubt the introduction of an Australian-style points system marks a major shift although immigration was plainly a key issue for many Leave voters, mainly in England it has to be said, so this move will come as no surprise.

As with much of the discussions around Brexit, the views of Northern Ireland cut little ice with a government determined to charge on with a drastic reshaping of post-Brexit society regardless of the potential impact on our economy.

Many businesses, particularly in hospitality, tourism and healthcare, will be profoundly dismayed by the proposals on migrant workers, many of whom would not meet the skills criteria or salary threshold.

The time scale involved is also unrealistic for what will be an enormous adjustment for the north's economy while Ms Patel's dismissive attitude towards the wider concerns of UK industry shows this is a government that is not prepared to listen.

Unfortunately, as we move closer to a final withdrawal from the EU, we can expect more of this behaviour from an arrogant, largely unfettered Boris Johnson who clearly cares not very much about the well founded concerns of the Northern Ireland business sector.

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