Brexit: UK construction industry facing ‘cliff edge’ due to EU departure

This post was written by Richard Huntley

The UK construction industry has warned that the sector faces a Brexit ‘cliff edge’ if the Government doesn’t provide more details on its plans to implement a two-year grace period for EU citizens looking to apply for settled status after the split.

A report jointly published by seven of the construction industry’s largest trade bodies on Wednesday, sets out the sector’s responsibilities and requirements in a post-Brexit labour market.

It calls on the Government to implement a post-transitional migration system based on key occupations where workers are in short supply, rather than on what it calls “arbitrary thresholds based on skill levels or income”.

“We know we need to step up as an industry and train more home-grown talent but we also have to be realistic about the future,” said Brian Berry, chief executive of the federation. “There will continue to be some ongoing need for migrant workers and our post-Brexit migration rules will need to be fit for purpose.”The Federation of Master Builders said the decision to leave the EU had left the UK construction industry facing a “cliff edge” in terms of its access to EU workers.

But Wednesday’s report calls on the Government to provide greater detail of its proposals, giving EU nationals more certainty about their future.Earlier this month, the Government released a technical paper outlining the details of a two-year grace period for EU nationals to apply for settled status once the UK leaves the bloc so they can remain in the UK.

“Without the skills that many EU nationals bring to the industry, we could be facing severe setbacks to the UK’s national infrastructure pipeline,” said Nelson Ogunshakin, chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering.

He said that there has already been an increase in the number EU staff leaving the UK for jobs on the continent.

“This will only get worse if we do not bring certainty to EU workers’ residency rights,” he added.

Construction represents 10 per cent of total UK employment, according to the report, and is a key driver of employment and economic growth across the country. According to figures from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), 8 per cent of the workforce in the UK construction sector stems from EU countries outside of the UK.

Critics have warned that the lack of clarity from the Government regarding its post-Brexit immigration policy could threaten major infrastructure projects.

John Slaughter, director of external affairs at the Home Builders Federation, said: “With the Budget having confirmed a target to deliver 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s, home builders will need to continue to bring more skilled people into the industry.

“To deliver the national social and economic necessity of an improved housing supply we will also continue to need access to foreign workers under a manageable migration system.”

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