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Construction firms told to plan for hard-Brexit skills shortage

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Construction firms in the capital have been warned to plan for a hard Brexit, which could potentially affect the working rights of one in three of their workers.

London immigration statistics show that 32% of construction workers were born in the European Economic Area excluding the UK. However, that country of birth is not the same as nationality, and some of these workers may now be UK citizens.

Following ministerial warnings that the risk of a hard Brexit is increasing, with international trade secretary Liam Fox recently saying the risk of a no-deal Brexit is now 60:40, London mayor Sadiq Khan has said businesses in the capital need to start planning for what he described as the ‘catastrophic’ consequences.

Khan said: “It is vital that businesses get the advice and support they need to start planning for the chaos of a no-deal Brexit now – before it’s too late… The biggest threat facing businesses is the growing chance that they could lose their European employees. The government’s current offer of ‘settled status’ relies on a successful outcome of the Brexit negotiations. If talks were to break down, the three million EU citizens living in the UK, around one million of whom are Londoners, would have no guarantee that their rights to stay and work would be protected.”

He added: “I am calling on Theresa May to do the only sensible and humane thing and extend the offer of settled status to EU Citizens currently living in the UK now, regardless of the outcome of the negotiations.”

Khan has asked London’s Resilience Forum to establish the impact of no deal on its access to medicines, energy, food and emergency services.

Business campaign group London First said that it shared the concerns over a no-deal Brexit.

“If we leave the EU without a deal, everything that’s been agreed to date – including the rights of EU citizens already living and working in the UK – is again uncertain.

“Our analysis shows the construction industry in London employs approximately 300,000 people, of whom 50% are UK born, 30% are born in the EU and 20% are born outside of the EU, so the numbers tally,” said London First programme director Emma Hutchinson.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) external relations director Marie-Claude Hemming said: “Part of ensuring any disruption is minimised will be Government at all levels committing to the planned pipeline of investment, as outlined in the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan.

“Forward visibility of investment will be key to ensuring our members can continue to deliver the infrastructure that drives growth, creates jobs, and will secure the health of the British economy once we have left the European Union.”  

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Brexit along with our ageing population should finally trigger the investment needed in offsite manufacturing. Excluding substructures almost nothing cannot now be deskilled and prefabricated.
    Moving work off site means that we can replace most of our existing workforce with a less skilled and a more diverse workforce saving money, improving productivity and most importantly delivering construction in q safer manner. This process should also move work out of London easing its transport and housing demands. Asia is already addressing this issue (OSM and an ageing workforce) and the UK construction companies wont compete when these companies arrive complete with automated OSM delivery systems.
    The construction industry continues to resist modernisation and Government should ignore their cries.

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