On 8 June the electorate will decide which political party will negotiate the UK’s exit from the EU. To the party that is chosen the infrastructure sector has some clear advice.
The ICE-led Brexit Infrastructure Group has developed a three-point plan for negotiators to ensure that our infrastructure networks can continue to drive economic growth and boost living standards across the UK.
A place to invest
A clear pipeline of infrastructure and construction projects has helped to make the UK an attractive location for overseas investment. But the success of the pipeline can’t be viewed in isolation from the role that the European Investment Bank (EIB) plays as an anchor investor in UK infrastructure.
The EIB invested upwards of €30bn in the UK economy during 2012-2016, with much of this targeted at infrastructure projects. Clarity on our future relationship with the bank is critical for the success of the UK’s long-term infrastructure plans.
The next UK Government should begin consulting on a UK infrastructure investment bank as a priority in the event that our shareholding in the EIB ceases.
Skills gap risk
Workforce numbers in the construction industry are already short of where they need to be as we continue to recover from the 400,000 workers lost during the last recession. The workforce is also ageing with hundreds of thousands set to retire over the next ten years. Brexit risks perpetuating this problem. Losing the 200,000 or so EU nationals that work in UK construction would put major infrastructure projects and housebuilding programmes in jeopardy.
To avoid this happening we are calling on all party’s to guarantee the status of existing EU nationals currently working in the UK during the negotiation process. In the longer term, government and industry should collaborate to map the skills required to deliver the National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline and prioritise them within any post-Brexit immigration system.
Collaboration key to innovation
We are clear about the role that the next government should play in ensuring that the UK’s infrastructure sector continues to grow. But we are also acutely aware that industry must share this responsibility too.
Productivity in the construction industry is poor compared to other sectors and improving this can’t be achieved simply through greater levels of investment and boosting workforce numbers. Brexit brings the need for the built environment sector in the UK to exploit new technologies and business models in to sharper focus.
Government and industry must develop a shared programme to exploit opportunities in innovation and digitisation to deliver significant improvements to productivity and economic growth.