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Tough Brexit Curbs Could Cost U.K. 214,000 Builders, Study Says

  • Skills shortage could inflate costs or delay projects: Arcadis
  • Warning follows announcement of more infrastructure spending

The U.K. could lose out on 214,000 construction workers by 2020 if it cuts off free movement of European Union labor when it leaves the bloc, deepening a skills shortage in the industry, a study found.

If the country applies its existing system for immigration from outside the EU, which is based on qualifications, the number of construction workers would fall through attrition, consulting firm Arcadis said in the report Tuesday.

“Missing out on over 200,000 people entering the workforce could mean rising costs for business, and much-needed homes and transport networks being delayed,” said James Bryce, the firm’s director of workforce planning, in a statement. 

The warning comes a week after Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond pledged to borrow for extra spending on housing and infrastructure projects. Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has committed to projects such as a high-speed railway, a nuclear plant and a third runway for London Heathrow Airport.

May has also pledged to cut net migration from about 330,000 in 2015 to less than 100,000 as the U.K. leaves the EU. That could put a squeeze on builders, which rely disproportionately on migrants. In London, 54 percent of construction workers are from overseas, according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.

The Arcadis study, conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said that even if the U.K. takes a less restrictive approach on immigration, permitting exceptions to the tough curbs for industry sectors facing shortages, it could lose out on 135,000 workers by 2020.

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