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May’s political misfire gives hope to construction sector’s migrant workforce

  • 09/06/2017
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May’s political misfire gives hope to construction sector’s migrant workforce
The UK’s construction industry is hoping softer Brexit negotiations will emerge after Theresa May’s Conservative party lost its House of Commons majority, which could relieve pressure on the reduction of migrant workers.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said the hung Parliament result had left key business sectors nervous, with the construction industry vulnerable to dips in consumer confidence.

However, putting political uncertainty aside, the failing of May’s general election gamble offered the sector’s workforce a lifeline.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “Theresa May stood on a hard Brexit platform and she has clearly not been given a mandate to approach the negotiations in this way. Brexit is inevitable but the election result will surely have a significant impact on the shape of the Brexit deal we end up with.”

He added: “This could be a positive for business leaders who are concerned about a broad range of issues – for the construction sector, our greatest concern is that the flow of migrant workers might be reduced too quickly and before we are able to put in place a framework for training sufficient UK workers to replace them.”

Berenberg Bank suggested earlier in the week that a hung parliament would be the best result for the economy because it lessened the chance of the hard Brexit a Tory majority could have secured.

Berenberg’s senior UK economist Kallum Pickering said: “By harming flows of trade, investment and labour between the UK and its biggest market the EU, Brexit could reduce UK trend growth to 1.8% from the pre-Brexit rate of 2.2%.

“In the case of a hard Brexit, trend growth could fall to 1.5%.”

Pickering said May would find it easier to play hard-ball with the EU if she increased her majority, adding “we see that election outcome as potentially the most damaging for the UK’s long run economic outlook”.

Prior to the general election the British Property Federation (BPF) warned that an incoming government must prioritise the construction industry skills shortage as a key part of its Brexit negotiation strategy if the country was going to succeed in building enough homes.

A manifesto published by the BPF in the run up to voting stated: “Access to the best talent drives the economy and stimulates demand for real estate.

“It is essential that our industry is able to access to skilled construction workers from overseas, while continuing its efforts to develop more home-grown talent and resources. We are ready to work with government to find new ways to solve the current skills shortage.”

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