The UK government is considering imposing a £1,000-a-year levy ($1,212) on each skilled European Union worker hired by British companies in the wake of Brexit, a move that would affect a construction industry strained by a skills shortage.
Home Office minister Robert Goodwill told a House of Lords subcommittee that the "immigration skills levy" could be introduced for EU migrants and would "be helpful to British workers who feel they are overlooked" in favour of migrants, newspaper The Guardian reported 11 January.
It has been estimated that nearly 12% of the UK’s 2.1 million construction workers come from abroad, mainly from the EU.
Goodwill told the Lords subcommittee that restrictions on employers hiring labour from outside Europe, including a levy, would be applied to recruitment from the EU after Britain leaves.
"In April this year we are … bringing in the immigration skills charge for non-EEA skilled workers. If you want to recruit an Indian computer programmer on a four-year contract on top of the existing visa charges and the resident labour market test there will be a fee of £1,000 per year," Goodwill said, reports The Guardian.
"So for a four-year contract that employer will need to pay a £4,000 immigration skills charge. That is something that currently applies to non-EU and it has been suggested to us that could be applied to EU."
Goodwill said an apprenticeship levy would be introduced this year to help the government meet its commitment to train more than 3 million more apprentices before the 2020 general election.
The minister invited the peers to "seriously consider" including the immigration skills charge for EU skilled migrants within their inquiry report on the matter.
"It would be helpful to the British economy and to British workers who feel they are overlooked because of other people coming into the country getting jobs they would themselves like to get," he said.
A number of prominent firms in the UK construction industry expressed concern about the impact of Brexit before the 23rd June referendum.
Engineer Mott MacDonald’s chairman, Keith Howells, told The Guardian in May: "We would face quite a significant skills shortage if we opt out [of the EU]. We employ quite a number of EU nationals. A lot of young people have come here from Greece, Spain and Italy, got masters degrees and put themselves on the local market. What’s the impact going to be on them? We’re all in the dark."
Tony Pidgley, chairman of luxury property developer Berkeley, said that about half of its 14,000 subcontractors come from eastern Europe, The Guardian reported.
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Image: Nearly 12% of the UK’s 2.1 million construction workers come from abroad, mainly from the EU (Michael Spring/Dreamstime)