Construction industry warns against Brexit ‘cliff edge’ for EU workers

The construction sector has warned the government of the dangers of the industry facing a ‘cliff edge’ regarding access to EU workers.
In an unprecedented show of unity, seven of the construction industry’s major trade bodies have set out what they believe to be the sector’s responsibilities and requirements in a post-Brexit labour market.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “The construction industry has been criticised in the past for being too disparate but it has come together here with one voice and set of clear messages.

“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. 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 ‘Construction Industry Brexit Manifesto’ commits the sector to doing much more to recruit and train additional UK workers to reduce its future reliance on migrant labour. However, it makes clear that this will not be able to happen overnight and that, for some time, there will likely remain an ongoing need for significant levels of skilled EU workers.

The document sets down the industry’s key messages to the government on what it will need from a post-Brexit immigration system in order to be able to deliver the government’s strategic objectives for new housing and infrastructure. These include:

• the government should agree a transition period of at least two years as soon as possible, during which time EU workers arriving in the UK should continue to have a path to settled status

• the post-transitional migration system should be based on key occupations that are in short supply, rather than on arbitrary thresholds based on skill levels or income

The manifesto comes with the support of seven major construction trade bodies: Federation of Master Builders, Association for Consultancy and Engineering, Build UK, Civil Engineering Contractors Association, Construction Products Association, Home Builders Federation, and National Federation of Builders.

Dr Nelson Ogunshakin OBE, CEO of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering, said: “Without the skills that many EU nationals bring to the industry, we could be facing severe setbacks to the UK’s national infrastructure pipeline. ACE’s own surveys show that there is an increase in the number EU staff leaving the UK for jobs on the continent and this will only get worse if we do not bring certainty to EU workers’ residency rights.”