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UK construction firms rely heavily on EU workers


MORE than a quarter of London's construction workers come from elsewhere in the European Union (EU), according to new figures released on Tuesday that highlight the British capital's reliance on EU immigrants ahead of Brexit next year.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said 28 per cent of construction workers employed in London between 2014 and 2016 were nationals of other EU countries, more than double the percentage of EU workers in other industries in London.

The figures for the capital contrast with the UK as a whole, where only 7 per cent of the 2.2 million construction workers were from elsewhere in the EU - similar to other sectors.

Construction, which accounts for 6 per cent of British economic output, has struggled since the 2016 Brexit vote as uncertainty about Britain's future relationship with the EU has made companies reluctant to invest in major projects.

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"The London construction sector is particularly exposed to potential fallout from Brexit," said Manny Aparicio, national head of project management at property consultancy Naismiths.

London accounts for about a fifth of Britain's construction output.

The ONS figures also showed an ageing construction workforce across Britain.

"The youngest blood in UK construction is currently the non-UK nationals, but if Brexit makes the UK a less attractive place to work then that demographic could disappear at the same time as the older UK hands retire," Mr Aparicio said.

More than three quarters of the 165,000 EU nationals working in Britain's construction sector come from the 10 relatively poor central and eastern European countries that joined the EU between 2004 and 2007. A further 10 per cent are from Ireland.

Separate data published last month showed the number of EU nationals working in Britain fell for the first time in eight years at the start of 2018, figures that prompted alarm among employers.

The drop was driven mostly by workers from eastern European countries. REUTERS

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