Ireland reaps benefits of immigration – but did David Davis notice?

Cantillon: Brexiteer in Dublin this week as OECD warned of economic hit from no deal

Former Brexit secretary David Davis and PwC managing partner Feargal O’Rourke at PwC’s ‘Fit for Growth’ business forum at the Convention Centre Dublin on Wednesday. Photograph: Maxwell Photography

Former Brexit secretary David Davis and PwC managing partner Feargal O’Rourke at PwC’s ‘Fit for Growth’ business forum at the Convention Centre Dublin on Wednesday. Photograph: Maxwell Photography

 

David Davis was in town on Wednesday, but the former UK Brexit secretary was uncharacteristically shy.

Ironically, on a day when the OECD warned that Britain faced a sharp economic hit in the no-deal Brexit scenario that he and many his fellow Conservative MPs seems determined to embrace, he was addressing a function on the theme of “Fit for Growth”. Perhaps he had time on his way in from the airport to catch the latest headlines on Ireland’s record job numbers.

The CSO Labour Force Survey noted that a record number of people in Ireland are in employment. A key element of that was the number of foreign nationals contributing to our economic recovery. Just over one in six of all workers in Ireland today is a foreign national. That, too, is a record.

In a separate report, the ESRI stated that any chance the Government has of getting close to the requirement of 30,000 homes a year to meet demand will rely on attracting even more foreign labourers to our shores.

The CSO figures show there has been a 27,000 increase in the number of foreign nationals working in the State over the past year. The numbers from the UK and from eastern Europe are rising; those from more established EU states and, particularly, from countries outside the EU are rising even faster.

Ireland’s experience shows that immigration and economic growth are by no means incompatible

Figures published by the UK’s Office of National Statistics earlier this month showed a record fall in the number of EU nationals working in the UK: 132,000 fewer than a year earlier.

UK employment, it must be said, is still at record levels, but the clamour from labour-intensive business across the UK is the increasing problem of recruitment.

Ireland’s experience shows that immigration and economic growth are by no means incompatible. If anything, we rely on these workers to help deliver and accommodate growth.

It’s a lesson that was probably lost on Mr Davis, focused as he and his fellow Brexiteers are on curbing immigration at all costs.

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