The ICE-led Brexit Infrastructure Group has warned party leaders that avoiding a “self-inflicted skills crisis” and managing the loss of funds from the European Investment Bank are key challenges for the next government during Brexit negotiations.
Although the government’s National Infrastructure Delivery Pipeline gives long-term work visibility, the Group said that the economic benefits of infrastructure cannot be secured unless the skills and funding issues are addressed.
The letter from the group, which is chaired by ICE past President Sir John Armitt set out its views to the leaders of the main political parties. It says: “The UK requires an additional 36,000 infrastructure workers every year to meet current demand. This comes at a time when we have yet to recover the 400,000 construction jobs lost in the last recession and more than 700,000 of our current workforce are set to retire in the next ten years. As negotiations begin we run the risk of losing up to a quarter of a million European Union (EU) nationals from our labour market.”
It says that an increasingly costly workforce and specialist skill shortage will hamper infrastructure projects.
The European Investment Bank invested more than £25bn in the UK between 2012 and 2012, most which went into infrastructure, and enabled privately financed projects to reach financial close.
The letter said: “We believe the government should seek to maintain membership of EIB post-Brexit. If this proves impossible, government should begin discussion with industry now on the options for filling this gap. We stand ready to help with this process.”
Meanwhile, the ICE is the latest engineering body to publish a manifesto outlining what the new government can do to support and boost the sector.
It has five key points, the first of which is to put infrastructure at the centre of economic policy with a long-term project pipeline. It says Brexit negotiations must not disrupt the flow of new projects and should ensure the UK remains attractive to investors. The status of EU nationals working in the UK should be protected to avoid a skills crisis, and infrastructure innovation and technology should remain a priority for the Industrial Strategy. Finally it says all parties should commit to a modern industrial strategy which will help infrastructure boost productivity.