Worker numbers and environmental issues under the spotlight as clarity called for following Brexit vote

shutterstock_56047753-e1467215843281The UK construction industry has spoken in response to last week’s EU Referendum, calling on Government to act quickly to reaffirm the country’s position in the global market.

Last Thursday, June 23, saw a 52% victory for the Leave campaign as the British public voted to leave the European Union.

Since the vote, calls have come from all sectors of industry to clarify the UK’s position in the European and global markets and clear up the uncertainty surrounding how the UK will move forward in other areas addressed in the campaign.

With the topic of immigration being one of those key areas covered by both campaigns, interested parties have stated that with the issue of skills shortages still prevalent in construction, the Government must ensure that our new system of immigration provides the sector with enough skilled workers to build the homes and infrastructure projects that it needs.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “The UK construction industry has been heavily reliant on migrant workers from Europe for decades now – at present, 12% of the British construction workers are of non-UK origin. The majority of these workers are from EU countries such as Poland, Romania and Lithuania and they have helped the construction industry bounce back from the economic downturn when 400,000 skilled workers left our industry, most of which did not return.

“It is now the Government’s responsibility to ensure that the free-flowing tap of migrant workers from Europe is not turned off. If Ministers want to meet their house building and infrastructure objectives, they have to ensure that the new system of immigration is responsive to the needs of industry.

“At the same time, we need to ensure that we invest in our own home-grown talent through apprenticeship training. We need to train more construction apprentices so we are not overly reliant on migrant workers from Europe or further afield.”

Further concerns came from the industry with regards to climate change and the environmental challenges that the industry still faces in the wake of the Referendum, as the UK Green Building Council insisted that the green agenda must not be deprioritised.

Julie Hirigoyen, CEO of the UK Green Building Council, said: “Both economic and political uncertainty will have some people asking whether the green agenda needs to be deprioritised while business goes into firefighting mode. This must and need not happen.

“The incentives remain strong for business to address climate change and other urgent sustainability challenges. Arguably now more than ever we need to minimise future risk, reduce costs, add value for clients, generate new commercial opportunities and ensure we have the best people working as productively as possible. A sustainable built environment is fundamental to these objectives.

“We will take the argument to Government that a low carbon, sustainable built environment is good for UK Plc, and that this requires a clear and consistent policy landscape – in or out of the EU.”

With many questions left unanswered and many issues still to be addressed, the call from industry and the public is for leadership. The Government must accept the decision of the British public, reunite to take the country forward in the direction that it has chosen and begin to answer the many questions being posed.