UK infrastructure and real estate are at risk from a lack of free movement, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The organisation made the warning as the UK government today invoked Article 50 – its official notice to leave the European Union – and as EU regulators blocked the merger of the London Stock Exchange and Deutsche Börse.

RICS head of UK policy Jeremy Blackburn said: “Unless the free movement of skilled labour is secured during negotiations, we believe that the UK’s predicted £500bn [€577bn] infrastructure pipeline may be under threat.”

The institute said figures show that 8% of the UK’s construction workers are EU nationals, accounting for around 176,500 people.

“A loss of access to the European labour market has the potential to slowly bring some of the UK’s biggest infrastructure projects to a standstill,” Blackburn said.

The Property Industry Alliance (PIA) and British Property Federation (BPF) have already outlined the key elements of their Brexit-related lobbying in January this year, while INREV this month said maintaining market access and avoiding new barriers are key issues as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.

BPF chief executive Melanie Leech, who recently wrote in IPE Real Estate on the need for the commercial real estate industry’s priorities to be “heard and understood”, said: “We need certainty to maintain confidence in the UK as a great place to invest, which is particularly important for the real estate sector because we attract global investment and those investors commit for the long-term.

“Our sector supports most, if not all, UK economic activity and so decisions need to be taken now if we are to have the physical infrastructure to support a thriving post-Brexit UK economy.”