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Brexit draft agreement “disastrous” for construction, industry boss says

A leading construction boss has pleaded for “clarity” on an eventual Brexit agreement, claiming the draft document discussed by government has “done nothing to ease uncertainty for migrant workers”.

Scape Group chief executive Mark Robinson has lambasted Theresa May and cabinet ministers for creating mass uncertainty and believes “turning the tap off” on access to EU workers could cause an “unprecedented skills deficit” and an inability to deliver essential infrastructure projects.

His comments come after days of turmoil behind the doors of Number 10 in which after a five-hour gruelling cabinet meeting on Wednesday (14 November) ministers were persuaded to lend their support and back a deal on leaving the European Union.

Despite the original backing, the prime minister has faced her biggest leadership test to date after seven ministers in the space of 24 hours let May know of their intention to resign from posts. These included the Brexit secretary Dominic Raab who himself help negotiate the deal he is protesting about.

The government must ease the minds of the industry and classify construction workers as highly skilled."
Scape Group chief executive Mark Robinson.

On announcing his resignation, the keen Brexiteer said he could not "in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU" after being in the post for just over four months.

But the Scape boss has urged the government to re-think the introduction of a new skilled-based immigration system which could prove to be “disastrous” for construction going forward.

“As it stands construction site trades are officially classified as low-skilled jobs, and under current policy, it is not possible for non-EEA workers to obtain a work permit for low-skilled employment,” Robinson said. “The ONS recently revealed that in the countdown to Brexit the number of workers in the UK from the former Soviet bloc countries fell by 154,000 in the past year, we cannot afford to keep haemorrhaging workers in this way.”

Th chief executive is the man at the helm of Scape, which operates with a buying capacity of around £13bn and has helped deliver over 2,400 public sector projects with more than 1,800 currently in progress.

Robinson believes clarity is vital for the industry and anything government can do to provide more assurances needs to be explored.

“The government must ease the minds of the industry and classify construction workers as highly skilled,” he added. “The construction trades require specific and detailed knowledge and it is a classification that is as arbitrary as it is unhelpful and is hugely damaging to addressing the skills gap in the UK. We need clarity right now and not a sustained period of apprehension and unpredictability.”