Following Prime Minister’s Florence speech, trade body demands good deal for construction SMEs

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) has warned the government that it should not “turn off the tap” to EU skilled migrant labour following Brexit.

The NFB’s comments followed a much-anticipated speech in Florence by Theresa May earlier today in which she set out proposals for a two-year transition period following the UK’s exit from the EU in 2019.

The deal proposed would include payments worth around £18bn during the transition period but agreement still needed to be reached on the issues of the rights of EU and UK citizens and the financial settlement. 

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said: “The government needs to continue working to secure an exit agreement that allows local construction businesses such as our members to build more homes for local, hard-working people, attract more home-grown young talent into the industry, and grow and develop local economies.” 

The NFB also cautioned against “completely turning off the tap on skilled migrant labour from the EU”.

The federation’s comments followed a strongly worded-warning to Brexit secretary David Davis from the bosses of nine construction trade associations who said the industry would not be able to meet the government’s housing and infrastructure targets without “ongoing access to EU workers”.

This had emerged after a draft EU immigration strategy had been leaked, with proposed measures including those in “high-skilled occupations” to be granted permits to work for a period of three to five years, while other EU migrant workers will be offered a maximum of only two years. 

The letter to Davis, sent at the start of August, made clear that construction accounted for 10% of total UK employment, but that EU citizens accounted for 8% of construction workers, and 27% of workers in London.