Construction professionals urge Theresa May on EU alignment

Leading construction consultants have joined a broad call from the UK’s professional services industry for the UK government to protect their European business with continued policy alignment with the European Union (EU).

In an open letter to prime minister Theresa May, the Professional and Business Services Council (PBSC) also called on her government to clarify the Brexit plan and address key worries.

Leaders of Aecom, Arup, Make Architects, Royal Institute of British Architects and JLL are among 42 signatories to the letter.

"The EU has the balance of trade in goods in its favour and it is understandable that they will seek to prioritise it in the negotiations," it said.

"However, the UK needs to get the right deal on professional and other services given our relative strengths and current competitive position."

The trade body made seven specific requests, including a call for professional qualifications, products and operating licences to be recognised across both the UK and EU.

It also said regulatory frameworks and regulators, from data protection to audiovisual media policy laws to statutory audits, needed to be mutually recognised.

The PBSC wants judgements to be mutually recognised so that deals across EU member countries can proceed with legal certainty, and the ability to recruit talent from EU countries.

It called for an organised approach to any transition period, and continued cooperation with the EU in areas that facilitate trade, such as data sharing.

Separately, UK construction trade bodies today welcomed the Home Office’s plan for a settlement scheme that will allow EU citizens to secure permanent residence after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.

EU citizens who have lived continuously in the UK for five years will be granted "settled status", while EU nationals with less than five years of residence will be given "pre-settled status" and be able to apply for settled status once they have reached five years of continuous residence.

Applications will cost £65 for adults and £32.50 for children under the age of 16. The system will be rolled out in a phased manner from late 2018, with a view to make it fully operational by 30 March 2019. EU citizens will be eligible to apply online if they have been living in the UK by 31 December 2020. The deadline for applications will be 30 June 2021.

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) welcomed the plan.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said: "EU citizens have made and continue to make a substantial contribution not just to the national economy, but to the UK’s construction industry. We welcome the government’s efforts to secure their legal rights to continue their lives in this country and will keep a close eye on this scheme over the following months."

Monika Slowikowska, board member of the House Builders Association (HBA), said: "Simplifying the application process for permanent UK residency is vital, not only for individuals but for all industries. In construction, more than 50% of workers are aged 45 and over, EU nationals will play a vital role in combatting that retirement time bomb."

Image: Illustration by Rlevente/Creative Commons

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