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Brexit: Industry needs five-year transition, says CPA director

The economics director of the Construction Products Association has called for a five-year transition period after the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 to help construction cope with post-Brexit challenges.

Speaking on Day One of the CN Summit, Noble Francis pointed out that multiple issues were still to be addressed surrounding Brexit and their consequences may only become clear during the transition period, which is expected to last up to two years from March 2019.

Prof Francis said: “Once we get into a transitional implementation period […] there are issues in particular with labour where there are significant amounts of labour from abroad.

“In terms of products, they can be stopped at the border and there is a time delay with the potential for items and lorries being stopped and checked that people will simply not be used to.

“The issues around the products and labour are so detailed and complex that two years are not enough,” adding that the government should look at whether to “extend [it] to a five-year period”.

Commenting on how construction can cope with any potential skills shortages post-Brexit, KPMG partner Richard Threlfall said the industry needed to embrace technology now, rather than continue to wait for any future developments in the sector.

Mr Threlfall said: “We are already seeing huge advances in methods of construction, and data in the industry.

“Productivity has been damn well appalling. One way of dealing with this is to invest in technology.

“A very small number of buyers of infrastructure – around 12-15 organisations such as Network Rail, HS2, Highways England and National Grid – between them control 70 per cent of infrastructure spending in this country.

“If they changed their approach they could change construction overnight.”

Also speaking at the CN Summit, industry expert and Cast Consultancy chief executive Mark Farmer said many of the industry’s issues in the coming decade would revolve around skills.

He said: “We need to get more homegrown talent, we need to keep attracting migrants to our borders but we do need homegrown talent.

“We need to [flag] the narrative about what our industry represents as a career opportunity.

“This starts with going into schools early and painting a picture of a changing industry – one that is modernising and will actually motivate and inspire people to join us.” 

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