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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's construction industry could lose nearly 200,000 workers from European Union countries if the UK fails to keep access to the bloc's single market, a leading property body said on Wednesday, as it called for help for the sector.
Figures from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) showed that 8 percent of the workforce in Britain's construction sector hail from the EU and RICS said losing them would threaten major infrastructure projects.
The details of Britain's new immigration system following its departure from the bloc remain unclear.
Prime Minister Theresa May has made stricter controls on immigration a priority for Britain over continued membership of the EU's single market for goods and workers.
The government has not guaranteed the rights of EU citizens to stay as it prepares for a two-year Brexit negotiation period. But it has said it hopes to protect the status of EU nationals as part of a reciprocal deal for Britons and has suggested it will ensure employers are not left without workers they need.
Data published in February showed a fall in the number of EU nationals employed in Britain.
RICS said Britain's construction sector is already facing a skills crisis and it called on the government to prioritise building workers for visas as it does for other professions.
"A simple first step would be to ensure that construction professions such as Quantity Surveyors feature on the Shortage Occupations List," said Jeremy Blackburn, RICS Head of UK Policy.
"Ballet dancers won’t improve our infrastructure or solve the housing crisis, yet their skills are currently viewed as essential," he said.
Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by William Schomberg