The government has finally offered reassurances to EU workers here that they will be able to stay post-Brexit.
This is crucial for the construction industry, and firms desperate to retain EU workers will have been reassured by Theresa May’s statement this week.
In the government policy paper, it clearly states that no EU citizen living here (lawfully) will “have to leave as a result of us leaving the EU” before a cut-off date.
We don’t yet know that cut-off date, but it could be as early as 30 March this year, when Article 50 was triggered. If an EU worker has lived in the UK for five years continuously before this cut-off date, they will be granted settled UK status.
But will EU workers consider moving here next year?
Mrs May said: “EU citizens who arrived after the cut-off date will be allowed to remain in the UK for at least a temporary period and may still become eligible to settle permanently.”
This ambiguous language won’t encourage workers to consider moving here, as the long-term implications are unclear – especially when coupled with a probable crackdown on immigration numbers.
Construction employers must now prove their commitment to the EU workers many are so reliant on.
The government will soon start allowing EU citizens to obtain their UK immigration status, before Britain exits the EU. There will also be a cost attached. Employers who show willing to educate EU workers as to what they need to do and when (and contributing to the cost) will set themselves apart.
According to a CITB study published this week, there are more than 100,000 construction workers here who hail from just four EU countries: Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Ireland. While Irish people will enjoy special status post-Brexit, workers from other EU countries will desperately be wanting to understand their own circumstances better.
In London, half of the employers who responded to the CITB survey said they were in some way dependent on migrant workers.
Worryingly, 6 per cent of non-UK workers plan to leave the UK in the next 12 months, according to the CITB’s research, at a time when they are desperately needed. This figure also seems optimistic.
A Lloyds survey revealed this week that 52 per cent of UK companies had experienced difficulty recruiting skilled labour in the past six months (up from 31 per cent in January) while Deloitte research found that a third of non-British workers are considering leaving the UK.
This week’s pledges on retaining EU workers are welcome. Whether the UK will be as welcoming to future generations remains unclear.