Surveyors warn of workforce ‘Brexodus’

Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group

Home » Surveyors warn of workforce ‘Brexodus’

Published: 29th March 2017

This Article was Written by: Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group


Survey industry leaders have warned that loss of access to the EU single market has the potential to bring the UK’s £500bn infrastructure pipeline to a complete standstill.

Two Lords amendments: one guaranteeing the rights of 3 million EU nationals living in Britain, and the other giving MPs a ‘meaningful vote’ on the outcome of Brexit negotiations were vetoed by large majorities in parliament this month.

The Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors Survey (RICS) have released a statement warning that such a move could blunt the UK’s competitive edge on a global scale with devastating consequences.

It calculated that EU nationals make up 8% of the UK’s construction workforce (equating to 200,000 workers). This essential workforce segment could be lost if the UK government chooses to ignore demands to retain the rights of EU citizens after exiting the European Union.

Riddled with uncertainty and anger at being treated like ‘bargaining chips’, thousands took to social media to convey their outrage.

RICS stated that by forcing EU workers to return to their country of origin, some of the UK’s biggest infrastructure and construction projects would come under threat – at a cost of billions of pounds to the UK economy.

RICS policy chief, Jeremy Blackburn, said: “It is in all our interests that we make a success of Brexit, but a loss of access to the single market, has the potential to slowly bring the UK’s £500bn infrastructure pipeline to a standstill.

“A simple first step would be to ensure that construction professions, such as quantity surveyors, feature on the UK shortage occupations list.”

Many professions currently feature on the shortlist, which includes ballet dancers and musicians but not surveyors. These roles, regarded as critical occupations by the UK government, receive special dispensation in the Visa application process. However, with a shortage of surveyors in the UK, those that have made the list have come under the scrutiny of RICS.

Blackburn went on to say: “Ballet dancers won’t improve our infrastructure or solve the housing crisis, yet their skills are currently viewed as essential, whereas construction professionals are not.”

In the most recent RICS survey, 30% of construction professionals stated that hiring non-UK workers was important to the success of their businesses.

For the UK to remain competitive on the world stage, RICS wants more to be done to maintain access to the EU single market, alongside efforts to increase the number of skilled UK workers.

When questioned about the effectiveness of current plans to address the UK’s long-term skills shortages, up to 20% of respondents said that proposed apprenticeship schemes were not effective at all.

Earlier this month, RICS set out a list of desired outcomes for Brexit negotiations. It cites five areas in need of strategic prioritisation. These include:

  • ‘passporting’ for skilled workers, such as surveyors
  • attracting private investment for infrastructure projects
  • better development of ‘home-grown’ talent

Alongside these, demands for improved time-scales for the exit process and the liberation of British agriculture with a departure from the Common Agriculture Policy were also outlined. Read more here.

RICS state that losing access to the EU Single Market will jeopardise the economic health of the country and risk billions of pounds worth of infrastructure projects. It forecasts that companies most affected will be those working on large scale projects and those based in the south-east.

With the UK construction industry already ‘in the grip of a skills crisis’, RICS is urging the government to move swiftly to implement some form transitional arrangement and avoid a potential ‘cliff edge’ for the UK market, safeguarding the future of the construction sector as Brexit negotiations get underway.

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