Brexit migration report: Proposals could “devastate” infrastructure delivery, civils say

The representative body for civil engineering contractors warn proposed recommendations published by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) could massively slow down the delivery of UK infrastructure projects and cause a “brain drain” to industry hotspots like London.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) has today expressed “serious concerns” to MAC’s principle recommendation that the UK should adopt a Canadian-style migration system post-Brexit and end EU citizens' special access to the country as well as sector specific schemes barring agriculture.

The committee says there should be no preferential access to the labour market for citizens of any other country and claimed there was no evidence that increased European migration has damaged life in the UK.

Furthermore, MAC has called on the government to scrap a limit on highly-skilled workers altogether with it currently set at 20,700 each year from non-EU countries. The committee was set by Amber Rudd when she was home secretary. It is believed the report published today will shape the government's post-Brexit immigration policy with the government set to “carefully consider” proposals.

But CECA’s director of external affairs, Marie-Claude Hemming, has issued a stern warning and believes workers from around the UK would be drawn to hotspots like London in a bid to replace lost migrant workers. 

“CECA is concerned that if adopted by government, the MAC’s recommendations have the potential to slow down the development of infrastructure across the UK,” she said. “This will impact upon the government’s ambition to rebalance the economy, as the proposed recommendations risk a ‘brain drain’ as workers from the rest of the country are drawn to London and other industry hotspots. CECA believes that in the long term, wider industry change including technology will address some of these recruitment challenges. But in the meantime any future migration system must be flexible enough must ensure that a shortage of workers does not block delivery of vital projects.”

The report made 14 proposals in total after taking evidence from more than 400 businesses, industry bodies and government departments.

It stated: “Our recommendation is that there should be a less restrictive regime for higher-skilled workers than for lower-skilled workers in a system where there is no preference for EEA over non-EEA workers. Higher-skilled workers tend to have higher earnings so make a more positive contribution to the public finances."

If you would like to contact Ryan Tute about this, or any other story, please email