As a member of the Single Market, workers from all EU member states are free to work in the UK. After Brexit this will no longer be the case, and this may impact your business’s ability to recruit and retain skilled labour. When the new arrangements for migration are introduced will depend on the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU.
Considering the importance of EU nationals to the UK construction industry, the end of free movement is a real concern for many businesses. As an illustration of the acute challenge facing the sector, recent Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) research indicates that approximately 168,000 workers across a range of skill sets will be needed by 2022 in order to meet current construction requirements. In order to address this, initiatives to preserve the sustainability of the workforce are being prioritised by the GGF.
So far there is no substantial evidence to show that migrant construction workers are leaving the UK, but if and when Brexit happens, the Government will put in place new immigration laws that will tighten the restrictions on oversees workers below a certain skills threshold to pursue their careers in the UK.
So far there is no substantial evidence to show that migrant construction workers are leaving the UK, but if and when Brexit happens, then there will be new immigration laws that will certainly tighten the restrictions for overseas workers wanting to pursue their careers in the UK.
Scenario 1: “No deal”
Existing Overseas Workers
The UK government has reached an agreement in principle with the EU that will protect the rights of EU citizens and their family members currently living in the UK. It has also reached agreements with European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and Switzerland.
These agreements mean that citizens from the EU, EFTA and Switzerland will need to apply to stay in the UK via the UK Settlement Scheme by 31st December 2020. Once this has been completed, individuals will be entitled to the same rights that they currently enjoy.
New Overseas Workers
Until 31st December 2020, individuals moving from the EU to the UK will be able to obtain temporary immigration status, for 3 years. This will give businesses certainty that they will be able to recruit staff after Brexit.
Future Immigration System
After the UK leaves the EU, the Government plans to introduce a new points-based immigration system built on skills rather than nationality. The Government have yet to publish their proposals in full, but it is anticipated that, given the expected shortages in the construction industry, these skills will be considered essential and prioritised in the future immigration system. The GGF is representing the views of our members by feeding into the Government’s plans for the new system, and we will provide more detail when this is available.
Scenario 2: UK leaves the EU with an agreement
If the UK leaves the EU with an agreement, freedom of movement will remain in place until the end of the transition period. The transition period is currently due to end on 31st December 2020 (if an agreement is agreed), but this date could be moved depending on further negotiations. At the end of the transition period, the UK will leave the Single Market and the Government intends to introduce a new points-based immigration system, as described above
Further measures to be introduced after Brexit include:
- removing the blue EU customs channel, requiring all travellers to make customs declarations by choosing the red or green channel
- introducing blue UK passports later this year
- removing the rights to permanent residence under retained EU law for those who arrive after Brexit
After Brexit, EU citizens will still be able to come to the UK for visits or short trips. They will be able to apply for Euro TLR (Temporary Leave to Remain) if they wish to stay beyond 31 December 2020