Could post-Brexit restrictions block EU-born construction workers?

Just 7% of current EU-born construction employees will be eligible to work in the UK if the government adopts the same non-EU visa system for EU nationals, research has revealed.

A new report by think-tank IPPR has found that the construction industry has become increasingly reliant on EU migrants to alleviate labour shortages.

Even in the least-restrictive scenario modelled by IPPR, two in three current EU-born employees working in the UK would be ineligible.

Joe Dromey, senior research fellow at IPPR, said: “Brexit threatens to turn the growing skills challenge in the construction industry into an existential crisis, with significant negative consequences for our economy and for the housing crisis. 

“The government wants to double housebuilding, and cut net migration by more than half.

“To do either, would be difficult.

“But to do both together – when our construction industry has become increasingly reliant on EU-born workers – is simply not possible.

“If we are to build the homes, the commercial property and the infrastructure that our country needs after Brexit, then government needs to wake up, recognise the scale of the threat and work with the industry to limit the impact.”

IPPR research has also found that the construction sector has the joint highest level of skills shortage vacancies of any industry.

The proportion of EU migrants in construction increased five-fold between 2003 and 2016 and half of London construction workers were born outside of the UK, with a third born in the EU.

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