The U.K. government’s proposed post-Brexit immigration controls announced on Feb. 18 will threaten construction output, warned industry leaders.

Having taken the U.K. out of the European Union last month, the government plans to introduce a points-based system beginning in 2021 that will reduce the inflow of low skilled workers.

U.K. immigration policy now is to reduce reliance “on cheap labor from Europe” and invest in technology and automation, explains the government announcement.

But critics warn that minimum skill levels set by the new system will exclude migration of key construction trades already in short supply.

Points = Job Status

Starting in January, free movement of people between the U.K and remaining EU countries that has been in place for decades, will end. Workers from EU member nations and elsewhere around the world will need to achieve 70 points in the new system to gain access. Hopeful migrants must speak English and have a job offer at an “appropriate” skill level from approved sponsors.

Worth 50 points together, these characteristics must be augmented by another 20 points to achieve the required 70.

Other characteristics include salary level above a minimum, education qualifications and market demand for the offered skills. The minimum qualifying skills-level set would exclude trades such as bricklayers and carpenters—a key construction impairment.

Read more on how migrant construction craft workers are fearful of their future in the new immigration environment of a country that previously welcomed them.

“To deliver the homes we so desperately need, industry must still rely on being able to access the right mix of people and expertise from overseas,” says Mark Reynolds, CEO of the contractor Mace Group Ltd.and skills leader of the U.K. Construction Leadership Council

Federation of Master Builders CEO Brian Berry emphasizes that planned exclusion of low skilled immigrants “will hamper the construction industry’s capacity to deliver on key projects."

Assuming local workers will fill the gap by year end is “simply unrealistic,” he insists.

Rules governing migration between the U.K, and EU countries will form part of wide-ranging negotiations between the government and the confederation that are due to start next month and end by Dec. 31.

"The danger now for the Home Office is that it may find that migrant labor is not a tap that can be simply turned on and off," says a report in UK industry publication Building. "There is a risk that a foreign labor influx that has formerly been readily – and, to many 'leave voters,' too voluminously – free flowing, could dry up even when restrictions are lifted."

Adds the report, "and it would be at just the moment that the government launches the most ambitious infrastructure and housebuilding program for decades."