RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) Policy Manager in Northern Ireland, Dr Patrice Cairns, said:

“The triggering of Article 50 has today set the UK on a course to exit the European Union, and it is essential that every effort is put into ensuring Northern Ireland’s best interests are secured as a Brexit deal is negotiated. We strongly urge Northern Ireland’s political parties to agree to form a new Executive as soon as possible and to put forward a Northern Ireland-specific case in relation to the UK’s exit from the EU. This should highlight the unique circumstances we face here, namely the border with the Republic of Ireland, as well as the potential impact on our ability to attract inward investment, Northern Ireland’s sizeable agriculture industry, and the crucial nature of access to the single market. However, it is everyone’s responsibility to make Brexit work for Northern Ireland, and the support of industry is crucial.

“Construction skills are one area of real concern for Northern Ireland in relation to negotiations around the free movement of labour. Northern Ireland already has a significant number of construction workers operating in GB, and the potential loss of the 176,500 EU nationals currently working in the UK’s construction sector could put further pressure on Northern Ireland’s skills base. This could impact on our ability to deliver essential infrastructure projects and to build the necessary supply of new homes that our society and economy needs.

“It is up to the UK Government to secure the trade agreement, but industry must also work to secure the domestic skills pipeline. As the industry’s professional body, RICS is working to develop that skills base, building vital initiatives, such as degree apprenticeships, in our sector to drive the talent pipeline forward. A recent RICS survey revealed worrying figures showing that almost a quarter of our construction professionals fail to recognise the benefits of apprenticeships in solving the skills crisis. It is vital that industry gets behind such schemes.

For further information on the construction skills shortages or RICS Brexit wish list: