Construct UK has published a summary of key construction-specific Brexit-related comments, poll results and opinions
To say that next Thursday’s ‘once in a generation’ vote will have significant implications for the future of the country is, by any measure, a statement of the glaringly obvious, but perhaps it’s the level of that significance that is not as clear and no less so in the construction industry.
In an environment dominated by claim and counter-claim, the national debate is becoming increasingly frenzied, with both camps oscillating between fact-based straight talking and ‘project fear’ (depending on your perspective): it is somewhat reassuring to see that, in the construction industry, the debate appears (slightly) less hyperbolic. Nevertheless, in a sector comprising around 3 million jobs, a turnover of circa £100 billion, 280,000+ businesses and over 400 trade bodies, it is no surprise to find an almost overwhelming barrage of opinions and predictions relating to both possible outcomes.
Just in the last week, the industry’s views and comments have been making headlines: in housebuilding, Crest Nicholson has warned of a post-Brexit “pause on investing in land and recruitment”, whilst Berkeley has reported that “uncertainty” has contributed to a 20% reduction in reservations. In architecture, the AJ this week gave news of redundancies in a number of AJ100 practices and reported that “… some practices are citing Brexit as the root cause of recent malaise”. In contrast, the chairman of construction equipment giant JCB, Anthony Bamford, has written to his 6,000+ UK workforce outlining his reasons for supporting Brexit, emphasising that 78% of the group’s turnover is generated outside of the continental EU.
These latest broadsides follow a plethora of articles, surveys and opinion pieces over the last few months which have been no less polarised. In May, after conducting a survey, the National Federation of Builders claimed that “more NFB members want to leave the EU than remain”, whilst Building reported that 63% of its survey respondents thought remaining would be best and only 21% thought leaving would. On specific issues, the divide is also clear. In January, Building reported the FMB’s Sarah McMonagle as saying that the prospect of less red tape must be appealing, particularly for those smaller builders who find complying with Euro-regulations “quite burdensome…”. Conversely in its ‘Brexit Analysis Bulletin – Construction & Infrastructure’ Shepherd and Wedderburn pointed out that construction red-tape from EU directives and regulations are “mainly embedded into UK law and therefore Brexit itself would not result in less red-tape…..”.
Clearly, these examples represent just the tip of the iceberg and, whilst not a complete record, the Construct UK Construction Brexit Monitor provides a quick reference to a more comprehensive range of key articles, polls, etc., which have appeared in the industry’s media over the past few months. Whatever the final result, and with just over a week to go, the end of the debating is, at last, in sight.