Capital’s mayor Sadiq Khan warns of potential crippling effect of a ‘Hard Brexit’

A ‘Hard Brexit’ could cripple the capital’s ability to build the homes it needs as more than a quarter of its construction workforce comes from the European Union, the mayor of London Sadiq Khan has warned.

A report by London City Hall released today (Monday) shows 95,000 of the construction workforce in the capital are from the EU.

Khan is concerned the impact Brexit could have on building in the capital as the government has refused to guarantee the status of EU workers currently living in the UK.

“London is in the grip of a serious housing crisis - and fixing it is going to be a marathon, not a sprint,” the mayor stated.

“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 Housing in London reports shows there are 350,000 people who work in London’s construction sector, of which just over half are from the UK, while 27% are from the EU.

Three per cent of the workforce is from other European countries and 14% from the rest of the world.

Industry experts say London needs an extra 13,000 new workers each year until 2021 to plug the skills gap needed in London’s construction workforce, the report says.

Mark Farmer, chief executive of Cast Real Estate & Construction Consultancy, said the construction sector and the Greater London Authority needed to come up with a clear strategy to attract more UK workers and develop methods of construction which would need less labour.

He added: “It’s very clear that the construction industry is far more reliant on migrant labour than anywhere else in the UK. To safeguard against this, London will require at least short to medium term continued access to EU migrant labour and early protections given to its existing migrant workforce.”

The mayor has set up a construction sub-group as part of his Homes for Londoners board, which met for the first time in December last year.
Its aim is to develop ideas to bring in skills and improve the capacity of London’s construction industry.

Peter John, leader of Southwark Council, heads up the sub-group and said: “We urgently need more skilled construction workers in London.”

But he believed with the GLA’s work in this area would “enable us to work together to propose sustainable solutions in order to ensure a world-class construction workforce for London”.

The construction sub-group will report its findings to the Homes for Londoners Board later in the year.