Brexit could cost construction capacity

New RICS figures reveal that the UK construction industry could lose almost 200,000 EU workers post-Brexit should Britain lose access to the single market, putting some of the country’s biggest infrastructure and construction projects under threat, reports Show House.

RICS has cautioned that for Brexit to succeed, it is essential to secure continued access to the EU Single Market or to put alternative plans in place to safeguard the future of the property and construction sectors in the UK.

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Latest RICS figures show that 8% of the UK’s construction workers are EU nationals, accounting for some 176,500 people. 30% of construction professionals surveyed revealed that hiring non-UK workers was important to the success of their businesses.

“When asked about the effectiveness of current plans to address the UK’s long-term skills shortages, 20% of respondents felt that apprenticeship schemes were not effective at all,” said Jeremy Blackburn, Head of Policy for RICS.

“These figures reveal that the UK construction industry is currently dependent on thousands of EU workers. It is in all our interests that we make a success of Brexit, but a loss of access to the single market, has the potential to slowly bring the UK’s £500 billion infrastructure pipeline to a standstill.

“That means that unless access to the single market is secured or alternative plans are put in place, we won’t be able to create the infrastructure needed to enable our cities to compete on a global stage. We have said before that this is a potential stumbling block for the government, which is working to deliver both its Housing White Paper and Industrial Strategy.”

The UK is already in the grip of a construction skills crisis. While some overseas professionals, such as ballet dancers, are regarded as critical by the UK Government, and are therefore prioritised during the visa application process, construction professions have not yet been added to the ‘UK Shortage Occupations List’. RICS is warning that this could already be placing the UK’s predicted £500 billion infrastructure pipeline under threat and must be addressed as a priority.

Meanwhile, TheMoveChannel reports that London’s office market has moved on from the initial shock of the UK’s Brexit vote.

As the UK works through the complex Brexit negotiations that lie ahead, Cluttons cautions that uncertainty will still hang in the air. The real estate consultancy’s latest quarterly report, though, shows that the city is already moving on from an initial period of anxiety, with Q4 2016 marking a U-turn in conditions and attitude.

Total take up in the Central London office market during 2016 was down by close to a fifth on 2015, but take-up volumes in Q4 across Central London rose to nearly 3,520,000 sq ft, up 72 per cent on Q3 – the strongest surge in over two years. However, total take-up in 2016 was down a fifth on the previous year, primarily due to a hiatus in deals during the Brexit quarter.

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In the investment market, sterling’s prolonged weakness has attracted significant international capital, with Chinese investors being especially active. Beijing Capital Development, for example, purchased the 92,000 sq ft premises of Fleet Place House for £108 million, reflecting a yield of 4.35 per cent.

Faisal Durrani, head of research at Cluttons says:

“It would appear that the economy’s resilience in the face of an unclear future has helped to bolster activity in the capital’s commercial office market. Of course, this in addition to pent up activity from the inevitable Q3 Brexit referendum quarter which saw occupiers moving into a holding pattern.”

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