The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has issued an indirect warning to the government that the capitals construction market is likely to be “crippled” should they opt to push through with ‘hard Brexit’. The concerns from the mayor come amidst figures that suggest 95’000 of London’s construction workers are of EU nationality, representing over a quarter of the entire workforce.
He said: “While we are working to train up more Londoners to have the skills to work in construction, you can’t escape the fact that a ‘hard Brexit’ could leave a quarter of the skilled construction workforce in the capital high and dry, which would have a crippling effect on our plans to build the homes Londoners so desperately need.”
The UK government has consistently refused to guarantee the status of EU nationals as many believe it will be one of the main bargaining chips when it comes to formatting a deal with the EU, in addition to ensuring the future of UK nationals living in the EU.
The report, titled Housing in London, says there are 350,000 people working in London’s construction sector, of which just over half are from the UK. Some 27% are from the EU, 14% are from outside Europe and 3% are from European countries outside the EU.
The potential loss of skilled workers would be good news for those who remain, and may in time stimulate greater investment in training, but it would be bad news for construction and property companies who have come to rely on the European labour pool to keep labour costs down. It would also make it even harder to keep pace with demand for housing in the capital.
A recent report by a global engineering company found that the industry as a whole is potentially suspect to losing as many as 210’000 construction workers, should the two parties conclude their discussions with the undertaking of a ‘hard Brexit’.
“Official figures show that construction employment is 15% down on 2008, with large numbers of workers in their fifties leaving the industry.”
The report adds that neither prefabrication nor training will be able to respond to the crisis quickly enough to maintain output, and that “rapid plugging” is needed to alleviate the labour shortage – meaning access to migrant labour.
The mayor’s report says London needs “an extra 13,000 workers each year until 2021 to plug the skills gap … highlighting just how important it is for London to be able to continue to attract the talent it needs post-Brexit”.