Nearly a quarter of large consultancy and engineering firms say they will consider moving jobs out of the UK if Brexit makes it more difficult to move staff around Europe.
The Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) made the claim following a survey of its members which revealed that Brexit is casting a shadow over the UK construction industry.
The ACS said its sector will be hit hard if access to the European single market is not maintained because unfettered access to EU skilled nationals is vital to firms who will be designing and engineering some of the UK’s major infrastructure projects like HS2, Hinkley Point C (pictured) and Heathrow Airport’s third runway.
Its research suggests that 22% of large consultancy firms will consider moving jobs out of the UK if it becomes more difficult to move staff around Europe, potentially moving thousands of posts out of the country and jeopardising the delivery of major UK infrastructure projects.
The ACS said the UK industry could lose more than 175,000 EU workers – or 8% of the sector’s workforce – if the country does not retain access to the single market.
"It is essential that we make ministers aware of the numbers of EU nationals working in consultancy and engineering firms so that we can better inform government policy making and highlight the difficulties the sector will encounter in recruitment and retention in a post-Brexit world," said ACE chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin.
Today it launched a report, "The Effect of EU Migration on the UK Consultancy and Engineering Sector Post Brexit", which showed:
- 22% of large consultancy firms will consider moving jobs out of the UK if it becomes more difficult to move staff around Europe;
- On average 10% of consultancy and engineering firms’ staff are from EU member states which is higher than the construction industry average of 6%;
- 67% of EU staff work in London and the south east which is higher than the industry average;
- 50% of EU nationals are fee earners.
Ogunshakin said: "People are at the heart of our industry and without them we have no businesses. Anything that impacts on the ability of consultancy and engineering firms to hire the best and most talented staff will impact on the ability of the sector to compete globally and efficiently deliver the UK infrastructure pipeline.
"Infrastructure is the key enabler of growth and the driver of the UK economy improving peoples’ lives and our national prosperity. Our report highlights the crucial importance of EU nationals to our industry and the necessity of ensuring that consultancy and engineering firms continue to have unfettered access to EU staff following Brexit."
Image: Construction proceeds at Hinkley Point C, the UK’s new nuclear power plant in Somerset (EDF)