Builders raise alarm over no-deal Brexit and immigration cap

Leaving the EU without a deal would be more catastrophic for the UK construction industry than the financial crisis of 2008, when it lost more than 250,000 skilled workers, the National Federation of Builders (NFB) has warned.

The government is making the situation even worse with its Immigration White Paper, published today, which sets an annual salary threshold of £30,000 for immigrants in low-skilled trades, among which it includes construction, said the NFB, which represents smaller construction firms (SMEs).

Another SME representative body, the Federation of Master Builders, warned earlier this month that the government’s classification of "low-skilled" included bricklayers, carpenters and general site labourers, and barring them would exacerbate the UK’s construction skills shortage. 

More than half of workers on housebuilding sites in London are from the EU or abroad, a survey commissioned by the Home Builders Federation found last year. 

Across England, one in five workers are from overseas, the survey said.

Yesterday the UK government set aside £2bn to step up preparations for leaving the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019, with cabinet ministers saying businesses should start preparing their no-deal contingency plans. The Government will be sending 140,000 letters to businesses and will put 3,500 troops on standby.

"Construction businesses need stability and, with 100 days from Brexit, the government seems to be working toward providing the exact opposite," said Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB.

"A no-deal Brexit would not only make it harder for SME house builders to grow and prosper, but would make it impossible to build 800 homes a day and train the skilled workers of tomorrow."

Monika Slowikowska, director of NFB member company Golden Homes, said: "Telling businesses to prepare for no-deal while launching policies that would undermine construction, among other sectors, is setting the industry up to fail. The Government needs to work much harder to deliver a Brexit which provides certainty to business."

Image: Across England, one in five workers are from overseas, one survey found, with more than half of workers on housebuilding sites in London coming from the EU or abroad (Stephen Davidson/Dreamstime)

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  1. The Construction industry both designers and building firms have only themselves to blame.

    For years the using the same outdated design and method of construction has resulted in the current labour problems.

    One only has to look at North America to see how outdated the British Industry is.

    One of the major problems is the use of brickwork as the structure of low rise housing and single family houses.

    The Government is right to stop the inflow of labour as it has given an excuse to fail to modernise.

  2. We have had a skills shortage for the last 20years ever since the CITB abdicated its responsibilities for training, under the excuse that builders would take up the mantle of training. As an excuse we have recruited 10’s of thousands of EU migrants to fill the void. But little has been done about training otherwise.

    Now instead of accepting our foolishness in not training, we blame BREXIT, sorry we have had 20 years without training the apprentices required and two years since Brexit. So what has the NFB and others been doing about apprentice training, other than blowing hot air.

    Why are Carpenters and Bricklayers described as low skilled?

  3. Is the implication that no Romanian or Polish workers earn more than £30k pa ?

    Rather than just make “Remainer” negative comments, look at it as a kick up our industry’s backside to train & employ more of our own tradesmen.

    We’ve had 2.5 years since the Referendum knowing we were going to leave and there would be restrictions on immigration.

    We voted to LEAVE not to conjure up a “DEAL”

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