UK Government Cites Post-Brexit Infrastructure Boost, Workforce Changes
In the government-written "Queen's speech" on Dec. 19 to open the UK's Parliament, one week after Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson's general election victory, Queen Elizabeth II reiterated his previously noted plan to spend some £100 billion on infrastructure going forward.
She also outlined a new Johnson plan to implement, by 2021, an Australian-style points-based immigration system for European Union nationals to work in Great Britain—noting that it will leave the EU on Jan. 31, according to UK media.
Industry site Building.com noted in a Dec. 19 report that spending details of the long-term "national infrastructure strategy" would be provided in the country's budget announcement, set for February, but will include added investment in transportation, schools and health care, decarbonization and clean energy construction, digital infrastructure, infrastructure finance and delivery, while "keeping borrowing and debt under control," the Queen said.
The speech also confirmed that, depending on still-pending review of the UK's late and overbudget HS2 high speed rail expansion program and the government’s response, legislation to build a section beyond Birmingham in northern England would gain Pariiament approval, but it did not reference the status of a planned extension to Leeds.
“Businesses want to see a fully integrated and modern infrastructure network. The government now needs to get on and deliver,” said the British Chambers of Commerce in a statement. “This must include completing all phases of HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the Lower Thames Crossing as well as ensuring local areas have the funding they need to address their priorities.”
Clean Energy Boosted
The government has boosted its offshore wind target to 40 GW of capacity by 2030, up from a March-announced target of 30GW, in what online site Business Green said indicates "the new administration is keen to accelerate the UK's journey to hitting net zero emissions by 2050."
But the report said no added funding to meet the higher offshore wind target was announced beyond the current government plan to spend up to £557 million
Business Green also said that environmental advocates are concerned about relaxed environmental standards under a Johnson regime, despite supporting documents released with the speech transcript that said rules would not be eased.
Migrant Worker 'Points'
Related to workforce changes, the Queen confirmed the new worker "immigration system … based on people’s skills and contributions to the UK” to include visas for immigrants seeking to work in the public sector and a point allocation system "focused on skills and talents, not nationality, and including migrants who had received world-leading awards or demonstrated exceptional talent, and sponsored entrepreneurs setting up a new business or investors," said the online Building publication report.
Skilled workers who meet system criteria and had a job offer would likely gain entry, as would "sector-specific" migrants who enter under certain programs for low-skilled work, youth mobility or short-term visits. The proposed point system, which is not a guarantee to permanent UK settlement, is set to be outlined in January, according to Building, which noted uncertainty related to architecture firm hires.
Also, said the Building report, the U.K. Federation of Master Builders is concerned that, under the proposed point system, small contractors now struggling to find skilled craft workers could face very big hurdles filling vacancies from outside Britain, in order to deliver on the planned infrastructure boost, and it called for more domestic worker training funding in construction.
The Johnson government also said it woufd create 20 "institutes of technology" across England focused on high-level STEM training.