Architect and broadcaster Piers Taylor has called on government to act to stem the departure of EU nationals from the UK workforce after new official figures revealed the scale of the numbers already leaving the country
Invisible Studio founder Piers Taylor said it was critical for the building design sector that the government reassured European workers they were ‘essential, valued and welcome’ in the UK.
Taylor – who last month sent an open letter from leading architects to prime minister Theresa May over Brexit – spoke out after official data showed a record drop in EU nationals working in the UK.
The Office for National Statistics published figures showing there were 132,000 fewer EU nationals in the UK workforce in the three months to the end of September 2018 than there were a year earlier. This represented the largest annual fall since comparable records began back in the 1990s.
Taylor said: ‘If it had set out to wreak havoc on a culture that has placed UK architecture at the centre of the world for decades, [the government] could do nothing more effective than implement its proposed post-Brexit immigration policies.
‘Like the rest of the world, I feel like I am stuck in some kind of post-apocalyptic nightmare of this Tory government’s making. Brexodus has well and truly started, and it goes without saying that any government in its right mind would act now to reassure EU workers that they are essential, valued and welcome.’
I feel like I’m stuck in a kind of post-apocalyptic nightmare of this Tory government’s making
Tensions are running high as Brexit negotiations crank up. In September, the RIBA branded a key migration policy report – which mooted a minimum salary requirement for those seeking to work in the UK – ‘extremely worrying’ for the architecture sector.
The AJ recently reported that the Architects Registration Board had recorded a 42 per cent fall in the number of EU registrations since the 2016 exit vote. Architects raised concerns that a loss of diversity would lead to ‘boring conversations and dull design’.
Taylor’s letter to May – signed by high-profile architects including Bob Allies, Peter Clegg, David Chipperfield and Cindy Walters – described a proposed definition of skilled worker in post-Brexit immigration systems as ‘devastating’.
Taylor said today: ‘Architecture isn’t something that we can simply train British people to do but is instead a cultural endeavour that gains its import and breadth though diversity and cross-fertilisation of ideas, skills and outlooks drawn from all around the world. The freedom of movement that we have grown up with has allowed and encouraged this.’
He added that national boundaries were ‘meaningless’ in the appreciation and practice of architecture and said the government’s appreciation of culture ‘starts at Bake Off and finishes at Top Gear’.
Alan Vallance, chief executive of the RIBA
We’re concerned by this further evidence that EU citizens are choosing to leave the UK. One in five architects working in the UK today are from the rest of the EU and they are a vital part of our workforce – losing these talented colleagues will be a disaster for our sector.
Losing these talented colleagues will be a disaster for our sector
The RIBA has been clear that the Government needs to roll out its settled status scheme for EU citizens without further delay, to give European architects the certainty they need and deserve.