BSRIA has responded to the Prime Minister’s offer of guarantees for EU citizens made to the European Council.
BSRIA has welcomed the Prime Minister’s proposal to guarantee the rights of EU citizens working in the UK, however, there needs to be a sense of urgency in such negotiations in working towards a deal that puts employees and jobs first. Any agreement must deliver wealth for future generations in both the UK and the EU-27.
The status of EU-27 citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU-27 needs to be clarified. Government announced this week in Brussels that it is proposing “UK settled status” for EU nationals who have lived in the UK for five years and this will rely on EU states granting the same rights to Britons.
Under existing rules – EU staff in the UK can gain “permanent residence” in the UK after five years of living in the UK. For those who have been in the UK less than five years, the situation is more uncertain. Government has said it will not guarantee the right to remain until reciprocal rights for UK citizens living abroad are assured.
Julia Evans, Chief Executive, BSRIA, said: “The UK and the EU must strive for a bullet-proof, reciprocal guarantee on citizens’ rights as soon as possible in these Brexit negotiations. Individuals and industry cannot be left in a state of uncertainty until the end of the final Brexit agreement.
BSRIA understands that government has made favourable offers to the EU on the status of such citizens working in the UK and that Brussels is now considering the issue.
A year on from the vote to leave the EU the chief issue still to be resolved is the situation of EU nationals currently living and working in the UK – estimates suggest almost 200,000 work in the construction industry. Such workers make up eight per cent of the construction workforce and this rises to 25 per cent in London.
There is already a frightful shortage of skilled labour – not only in the short or medium term – but in the long term too. And the cost of getting buildings built has hurtled upwards.
BSRIA calls on government to consider and protect the construction industry’s current foreign-born workers. And we need to reassure EU staff already resident in the UK that they are welcome and valued. We trust that government will make every effort to ensure that they can stay, whatever the outcome of the negotiations.
Any uncertainty in the negotiations with possible tough migration rules, could result in it becoming harder for industry to bring in EU staff.
Indeed, the Immigration Bill, was outlined in last week’s Queens Speech where it was highlighted that industry certainly needs to be able to attract the ‘brightest and the best’ employees.
BSRIA has repeatedly said that the construction industry needs access to a skilled global workforce – especially from the EU. With the current housing shortage crisis – we need a workforce with the right skills to build homes, therefore, a fluid and skilled labour market is vital.
This Bill was positive for those EU nationals already living and working in the UK. Many such nationals are employed by the industry throughout the length and breadth of the country. Industry needs these essential workers, so arrangements to make their lives smooth in the UK was encouraging.”