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Design and construction leaders warn government of post-Brexit 'construction crisis'

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The RIBA and four other professional bodies have warned the government of a post-Brexit construction crisis if access to skilled workers cannot be secured

The RIBA, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) outlined their concerns in a joint statement to Brexit secretary David Davis.

And they warned that the UK’s ‘construction skills crisis’ could worsen if steps are not taken to ensure access to a skilled workforce during Brexit negotiations.

‘The greatest strength of our sector is the skill of our workforce,’ they wrote. ‘The free movement of labour within the EU has been vital to the growth and flexibility of the construction sector.

‘Access to a skilled workforce of the highest quality and a focus on developing the next generation of home-grown talent are critical to ensure we can build the homes, businesses and infrastructure we need to compete globally.

‘We therefore urge the government to explore options and approaches to ensure that this access is not impeded to the detriment of the built environment.’

The institutes also outlined five other priorities for the government to focus on during post-EU referendum negotiations: common standards, research excellence, infrastructure investment, devolution commitment and community investment.

RIBA president Jane Duncan said she was confident the institution’s members could deliver ‘strong economic growth’ in a post-Brexit environment.

‘With the right actions taken from the government to address our industries’ joint priorities, we can tackle the challenges and exploit the opportunities that Brexit will bring,’ she said.

‘But unless we fix the housing crisis and address the economic imbalances in our economy, the UK won’t be in a position to compete internationally.’

The six priorities 

1. Access to skills

The greatest strength of our sector is the skill of our workforce. The free movement of labour within the EU has been vital to the growth and flexibility)of the construction sector. Access to a skilled workforce of the highest quality and a focus on developing the next generation of home-grown talent are critical to ensure we can build the homes, businesses and infrastructure we need to compete globally. We therefore urge the government to explore options and approaches to ensure that this access is not impeded to the detriment of the built environment.

2. Common standards

We believe that the UK has much to gain from pursuing an approach that makes it easier to do business with trading partners new and old. Access to markets in the EU and around the world has transformed the UK construction sector. The mutual recognition of qualifications and the development of common technical standards have reduced the barriers our members face working abroad. Reducing tariffs and harmonising standards have helped UK firms of all sizes expand to Europe and beyond. These common approaches have also meant that UK businesses can support best-practice in environmental and product standards, supporting efforts on global issues such as climate change. It is imperative that governments in the UK protect and promote the UK’s role as a leader in environmental and consumer protection standards.

3. Research excellence

Our members have benefited from the collaborative research that the EU has enabled and promoted. Our future success depends on maintaining these relationships, while forging new ties with research organisations around the world. In addition the continued success of our world-class university courses training our young people in the built environment is essential to the underpinning of research and the continued supply of labour for construction and allied activities.

4. Infrastructure investment

The UK’s global competitiveness will be hampered unless we do more to tackle the major infrastructure challenges we face. With a housing crisis, and growing concerns around energy, telecoms, road, rail and airport capacity, the governments in the UK must seek and entice prospective investors to consider infrastructure of all kinds. Providing confidence to the construction industry through infrastructure funding and development will provide stability during a period of uncertainty and ensure that the UK is well placed to take advantage of growth opportunities in the future.

5. Devolution commitment

The referendum has brought divide between the different parts of the UK into sharp focus. Our organisations welcome the recent commitment to continuing the Northern Powerhouse and we believe that further devolution from Whitehall should be a key priority for the UK government as powers move from the European Commission. Devolution will enable a rebalancing of the economy so that all parts of the UK can benefit from any new opportunities arising from the UK’s new relationship with the European Union, and is an effective way of ensuring infrastructure spending is efficient, timely, coordinated and accountable.

6. Community development

Through the extensive skills and experience of our members we are best-placed to advise on how the built environment can unlock new opportunities and combat existing challenges, as well as provide places for people to live, work and play. Leaving the EU could present a great opportunity for the UK, but it should not be associated with a drive to the bottom in the environmental and building standards which future generations will live with.

 

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