EU workers need transition period, Walpole urges Theresa May

A host of UK business leaders, including Walpole’s CEO, claim that the Government’s new proposals on EU citizens’ rights after Brexit do not go far enough to ensure Britain will get the workers it needs to ensure growth.

Chief executives spoke out after Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled plans whereby all EU nationals who have been lawfully resident in the UK for at least five years from a date yet to be decided, will be able to apply for “settled status”. However, those who come after the date will have two years to “regularise their status” but with no guarantees.

John Tutte, the boss of FTSE 250 builder Redrow, welcomed the certainty for settled workers.

However, he said that UK construction “relies heavily upon a transient EU workforce”. “As a minimum, there should be a period — lasting for a number of years — where transitional EU workers can secure temporary visas,” he said.

“This will allow the UK’s construction industry more time to develop the skilled labour required to meet this country’s housing shortage.”

David Montague, chief executive of housing association L&Q, said: “If we want to build more homes we must welcome skilled construction workers wherever they come from.”

Luxury goods association Walpole — which counts Burberry and Jimmy Choo as members — said that a third of the British luxury workforce are EU nationals.

Chief executive Helen Brocklebank warned: “Walpole feels the current offer doesn’t go nearly far enough to help attract and retain the wide range of skills and talents the sector needs in the future.”

According to a report from Deloitte, a third of non-British workers are considering leaving the UK, with highly skilled EU workers most likely to leave.

Read the article by Joanna Bourke on the Evening Standard here.