Civil engineering contractors and procurement leaders have slammed the government’s draft Brexit deal for not providing more certainty for the sector.
They have also criticised politicians for the way they are behaving over the draft Brexit deal between the UK and the European Union.
Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) chief executive Alasdair Reisner said: “Industry is getting increasingly frustrated that one of the most challenging changes for the country in memory is looming large on the horizon, and yet there remains huge uncertainty about what our future holds.
“We welcome the fact that the government has made progress, but regret that this has become wrapped up in infighting and politics that seems more focussed on the careers of individuals than what will be best for the people of Britain.
“We will not be alone in saying that we want to turn down the political noise, and start steering a path away from a no-deal Brexit that would cause untold damage to the economy.”
CECA represents industry giants including Amey, Balfour Beatty and Bam.
The Campaign for Science and Engineering deputy director Naomi Weir added her frustration. She said: “The content of the draft agreement, along with its presentation and reception in Parliament, has so far been highly political, as perhaps expected. To successfully move beyond this critical point and result in an outcome that is desirable for science and engineering, the next layer of detail and decisions must be thoroughly informed by evidence, research and expertise.
“From accessing the technical expertise required to inform regulations and standards in different sectors, to being willing to design agreements, systems and policy informed by modelling of trade, services or people flows between nations and across borders, the UK Government must ensure its next steps are informed by evidence and not by fake news.”
Scape Group chief executive Mark Robinson said there was an underlying theme of “lack of clarity” in the draft deal document.
In October Balfour Beatty was appointed as the sole contractor for Scape’s two civil engineering frameworks with a total value of £2.1bn, but under the terms of the deal will be obliged to distribute through local supply chains.
Robinson said: “One thing is certain the introduction of a new skilled-based immigration system which is based not on the country people come from, but on what they can bring to the UK will be disastrous for the construction industry.
“As it stands construction site trades are officially classified as low-skilled jobs, and under current policy, it is not possible for non-EEA workers to obtain a work permit for low-skilled employment. The ONS recently revealed that in the countdown to Brexit the number of workers in the UK from the former Soviet bloc countries fell by 154,000 in the past year, we cannot afford to keep haemorrhaging workers in this way. The draft agreement has done nothing to ease uncertainty for migrant workers.
“Turning the tap off could cause an unprecedented skills deficit and an inability to deliver essential infrastructure projects, deliver the new homes needed across the country and at a strategic level, provide the built environment that supports the growth of UK Plc.
“We need clarity right now and not a sustained period of apprehension and unpredictability.”
He called on the government to “ease the minds” of the industry and classify construction workers as highly skilled.
“The construction trades require specific and detailed knowledge and it is a classification that is as arbitrary as it is unhelpful and is hugely damaging to addressing the skills gap in the UK,” he said.
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