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Lynne Gowers
23rd March, 2017

Fears for construction industry as PM gets ready to fire the Brexit starting pistol

brexit

With the Prime Minister primed to invoke Article 50, triggering the official start of the process to divorce the UK from the EU, a leading chartered body has warned that Britain could lose 8% of its construction workers in the wake of Brexit.

A report from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) cautions that the existing construction skills crisis in Britain could be compounded by an exodus of EU workers, putting  key construction and infrastructure projects under threat.

Latest RICS figures at a glance

  • 8% of the UK construction workforce comes from the EU
  • If the UK loses access to the single market post-Brexit, 176,500 jobs could be at risk
  • The industry is already facing a skills crisis, putting a predicted £500 billion project pipeline under threat
  • 30% of construction professionals surveyed said that hiring non-UK workers was important to the success of their business.

On 29th March Prime Minister Theresa May is due to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - the trigger to officially notify the EU that the UK is leaving. This paves the way for two years of negotiations on Britain’s terms of exit and future relations.

In their report, RICS calls for the UK government to secure continued access to the EU Single Market or to put alternative measures in place to safeguard the future of the property and construction sectors in the UK.
As a first step they are urging the government to ensure that construction professions are included on the “UK Shortage Occupations List”.

“Ballet dancers don’t build houses”

RICS highlighted that some overseas professions, such as ballet dancers, are regarded as critical by the UK government, and are therefore prioritised during the visa application process.

RICS Head of UK Policy, Jeremy Blackburn said: “These figures reveal that the UK construction industry is currently dependent on thousands of EU workers. It is in all our interests that we make a success of Brexit, but a loss of access to the single market has the potential to slowly bring the UK’s £500 billion infrastructure pipeline to a standstill.”

He continued: “A simple first step would be to ensure that construction professions such as quantity surveyors feature on the Shortage Occupations List. Ballet dancers won’t improve our infrastructure or solve the housing crisis, yet their skills are currently viewed as essential, whereas construction professionals are not.”

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