Skills base must be secured post Brexit

Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at RICS comments on how leaving the EU will affect the Uk’s skilled workforce.

“Hard or soft, we have been a nation gripped by confusion as to what Brexit actually means, and that uncertainty has had a ripple effect across the UK economy. We know that firms have been playing a waiting game, putting investment plans on hold until certainty is delivered. The future of UK plc has been reliant on the Prime Minister laying out a clear timeline and set of ambitions. Today she has done just that – Brexit is no longer ambiguous. The public, industry and investors now have a much clearer understanding of what Brexit truly means and with it, the clarity to take us through to 2019.

“While this clarity is undoubtedly welcome, one thing is clear, a loss of access to the EU’s skilled workforce has the potential to slowly bring the UK’s property and construction sector to a standstill. That means unless alternative plans are put in place, we won’t be able to deliver the thousands of homes needed to solve our housing crisis or create the infrastructure needed to enable our cities to compete on a global stage. Potentially, an embarrassing situation for a Government set to publish both its Housing White Paper and Industrial Strategy.

“Of course, we must also address the need to grow the UK-based skills pipeline. As the industry’s professional body, we are working with Government and industry to develop that skills base, building vital initiatives such as degree apprenticeships in our sector to drive the talent pipeline forward. I think we are safe to assume that this will also be a key pillar of the forthcoming Industrial Strategy. But we also need greater clarity on how we attract and retain the best global talent, our future industrial growth depends on it.

“But we can’t simply focus on industrial growth. Professional services are at the heart of our economy, and our future growth in this sector is dependent on our ability to import and export – or passport – such services throughout the EU. For example, London and other major UK cities will struggle to thrive unless we can encourage overseas businesses to invest in and occupy commercial property. To that end, the Prime Minister’s promise today to secure a free trade agreement for goods and services across the EU has the potential to offer a safety net for the future of our capitals and major cities.

“Brexit will touch every acre of the UK, from our financial and industrial hubs to those green and pleasant lands. The move away from the Common Agriculture Policy offers an historic opportunity to reform our existing agriculture systems. The Government has bought farmers and rural businesses, some much needed time through the guarantee of payments until 2020. Not only will this give land-based businesses near-term certainty, it offers those within the sector the opportunity to work with Ministers to craft a new system that specifically meets UK needs, supporting farmers and protecting vulnerable landscapes, while offering the tax payer good value for money.

“Today, the Prime Minister has today gone some way to setting the course that will take us out of the European Economic Union, but it will now be the detail that determines the future of Britain under Brexit, and our ability to create a built environment sector that is vibrant, sustainable and resilient to future shocks.”