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.Â
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.Â
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)