Mark Farmer calls for 'serious solutions' to construction skills gap and impact of Brexit as Theresa May announces shock election

Following Theresa May's surprise announcement to call a snap General Election on June 8, Cast Consultancy chief executive Mark Farmer hopes the main parties’ manifestos will offer "serious solutions" to the construction skills gap and the impact of Brexit on the sector.

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street this morning, the Prime Minister told the media that, following a Cabinet discussion, it was deemed to be in the country’s best interests that an election be held.

However, the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 set the date of the next General Election to May 7, 2020. To unlock this, and allow her to request the Queen dissolve Parliament at an earlier date, the Government will need to secure at least two-thirds support for a motion in favour of calling a snap election.

Ironically, this will require a degree of cross-party unity the Prime Minister declared was sadly lacking in Westminster.

In her announcement today, May effectively questioned the loyalties of the mainstream Opposition parties in Parliament, along with the Scottish Government, over the UK’s exit from the European Union. She has, in effect, declared iron-clad support for the Government’s stance on Brexit a matter a national unity.

“At this moment of enormous national significance there should be unity here in Westminster, but instead there is division,” May said. “The country is coming together, but Westminster is not.

“In recent weeks Labour has threatened to vote against the deal we reach with the European Union. The Liberal Democrats have said they want to grind the business of government to a standstill. The Scottish National Party say they will vote against the legislation that formally repeals Britain’s membership of the European Union.

“And unelected members of the House of Lords have vowed to fight us every step of the way. Our opponents believe that because the Government’s majority is so small, our resolve will weaken and that they can force us to change course. They are wrong.”

Farmer, author of the Government-commissioned Farmer Review of the UK’s skills shortage, said: "Whatever the outcome of this election, the construction skills gap will remain as will the impact of Brexit.

"In the campaign to come, I hope to see some serious solutions on offer as part of the main parties’ manifestos that adequately reflect the importance of the construction industry's welfare and future modernisation as part of its contribution to UK plc.

"We need to also preferably see a reasonable level of cross party consensus on a coherent and comprehensive skills and innovation agenda that is not interrupted by endless political turmoil!"

The Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, have taken up the challenge.

Jeremy Corbyn MP, leader of the Labour Party, said: “I welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to give the British people the chance to vote for a government that will put the interests of the majority first.

“Labour will be offering the country an effective alternative to a government that has failed to rebuild the economy, delivered falling living standards and damaging cuts to our schools and NHS.

“In the last couple of weeks, Labour has set out policies that offer a clear and credible choice for the country. We look forward to showing how Labour will stand up for the people of Britain.”

LibDem leader Tim Farron said: “This election is your chance to change the direction of our country. If you want to avoid a disastrous Hard Brexit. If you want to keep Britain in the Single Market. If you want a Britain that is open, tolerant and united, this is your chance. Only the Liberal Democrats can prevent a Conservative majority.”

Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “Britain is at a crossroads – and today’s announcement means that people are rightly given a say over the direction this country is going to take. Only the Green Party offers a bold, positive vision for a different kind of Britain. At this election we will stand for an economy that works for everyone, not just the privileged few; a Britain that’s open to the world and the protection of our precious environment. We will stand up to the politics of hatred and division that is scarring our communities and give people across the country a chance to vote for a better Britain.”

While Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley added: “Theresa May’s announcement today reveals a deep dishonesty at the heart of Government. Despite numerous denials of a plan for an early General Election she has u-turned. The Green Party is ready for this seismic moment in our country’s future. We will be standing candidates in every corner of this country and giving people a real alternative to the politics of the past.”

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