The Article 50 letter's been signed and delivered and the countdown to Brexit has well and truly begun. Whichever camp you fall into on leaving the EU, you need to be prepared for what it's going to mean for you and the impact it might have on your work and your pocket.

Right now, for instance, it's looking like UK construction's going to be feeling the aftershocks of Brexit for years to come. RIFT has always worked closely with the construction industry, so we'll be scouting the road ahead thoroughly. We'll be stacking up all the important facts, statistics and predictions on this blog over the coming months and beyond. We'll also be talking you through what leaving the EU means for you whether you're PAYE or CIS and your working conditions.

If you've been paying attention, you already know that UK construction's facing a serious skills shortfall in the next 10 years. The numbers on this are actually pretty scary: a potential 25% drop in the labour pool over the coming decade. That's before we even consider the effects leaving the EU might have.

There are two sides to that coin, of course. Short-term, a high demand for skilled labour is likely to mean lower unemployment rates among construction workers and maybe higher wages. The trouble with a shrinking talent pool, though, is you can quickly find yourself with too few skilled hands for your workload. Projects get delayed or cancelled and investors get nervous about putting money at risk.

Obviously, a lot depends on the deal Britain gets when we leave, but Brexit has a lot of people worried. A really "hard" Brexit, for instance, would mean a significant drop in the available construction workforce. By some estimates, we could see a drop of as many as 175,000 workers, as shown in the illustration from Construction News, below. That could mean the whole industry shrinking and a heavy impact on the government's overall plan for UK construction.

Number of EU workers set to leave Britain after Brexit by Construction News


That's really a worst-case outlook  but, honestly, any significant drop in the workforce spells trouble for the health of the industry. Keep in mind that this is all happening at a time when the government's just unveiled its plans for the future of construction. By 2025, they're trying to hit targets of:

  • A 33% drop in initial construction costs.
  • A 50% drop in build time, from initial conception to completion.
  • A 50% drop in greenhouse gas emissions in construction.
  • A 50% reduction in the trade gap in construction products and materials.

Those goals are ambitions even before we know whether the Brexit deal lands buttered side up or down. However, the fact that there's difficulty and risk involved doesn't mean it can't be done.

The whole industry might need to change, possibly with less reliance on manpower and more focus on technology. It might need to draw in people from other fields to build a workforce with the right skills, or develop new training and qualifications. However it copes with the changing world, "business as usual" won't be an option.

Forget the politics of Brexit. They only get in the way of seeing things clearly. What's important now is dealing with its effects, and that takes expertise and foresight.

If you're involved in construction, it's more critical than ever to keep your tax returns and tax refund claims in order as rules and regulations may start changing.

Checking back here regularly for updates and advice, and contact RIFT with all your questions and problems.