Responding to the release of the government’s Brexit White Paper, the FMB has stressed the need for certainty and stability and called on the government to clarify its approach to migrant workers as soon as possible.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Despite some pessimistic predictions, we’ve yet to see any sign of the Brexit process having a seriously negative impact on the wider economy. However, for this to continue as we approach this critical phase of the process, we now need to minimise the risk of uncertainty clouding people’s decision-making and spending plans and starting to feed through into the real economy. For most businesses, the government’s White Paper will be judged on whether it manages to achieve this. One area in which we now need greater clarity is over the shape of post-Brexit migration policy. For the many construction SMEs who are currently facing severe skills shortages, the certainty they need is that access to skilled EU workers will not be drastically cut-off. We hope this will follow closely after the publication of the Migration Advisory Committee report in September.”
Berry concluded: “The UK construction sector is more reliant than average on migrant workers from Europe – at present, 9% of our construction workers are from the EU. In London, this rises to nearly one third. Already, even with access to EU labour, the industry is facing an acute skills crisis. Nearly 60% of firms are struggling to hire bricklayers and nearly as many are facing difficulties finding carpenters. The shortage of skilled workers is fast rising up the list of barriers to SME builders in their quest to grow and build more of the homes the UK so desperately needs. Without access to EU workers, there is a real possibility that skills shortages will further intensify. This will threaten the delivery of new housing and have a knock-on effect on growth across the wider economy.”