More than 100 chief executives will meet at the end of the month to discuss implications of leaving EU
RIBA chief executive Alan Vallance is one of the industry figures who will take part in a high-level emergency summit on Brexit at the end of the month.
It has been convened by the Construction Leadership Council in the wake of growing fears over the impact on the industry of crashing out without a deal.
The summit, titled the Brexit Transition Planning Conference, is to be held on January 28 at the ICE’s headquarters in central London. It will see more than 100 industry chief executives brought together to discuss how to mitigate the fall-out from leaving the EU.
After May’s historic deafeat on the meaningful vote on Tuesday Vallance said the country had entered “uncharted territory” and warned that projects were already being put on hold because of the uncertainty facing businesses.
He said no deal would be a disaster for the UK and urged the government to seek an extension to Article 50 to allow for a concerted attempt to reach a deal.
“For the architecture sector, projects continue to be put on hold as uncertainty damages the investment climate and many EU architects in the UK are still uncertain about their future,” he added.
“To be weeks away from leaving the EU with no deal or alternative places businesses in an impossible situation.”
Earlier this month the RIBA released a 30-page report – Powered by People – arguing the £4.8bn architecture sector was in jeopardy from the chaos surrounding Brexit. Among its 18 recommendations, it suggested sharing responsibility for immigration between the Home Office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS),as well as increasing the availability of visas.
Last year the Arb reported a 42% drop in the number of EU architects registering in the UK. More than three-quarters of the international architects working in Britain are from the EU – and a quarter of the whole workforce is foreign-born.
Mark Reynolds, chief executive of contractor Mace and a member of the government-backed Construction Leadership Council (CLC), said the body decided just before Christmas to convene the summit, primarily to look at addressing the problems created by a possible no-deal EU exit.
“This is a Brexit contingency planning conference,” he said. “The view we’ve taken is that the industry needs to hope for the best but plan for the worst.
“The idea is it will look at both issues of goods being held up and access to labour, but at the moment the real fear is over goods. My immediate worry is about imports and exports: it’s the biggest short-term risk.”
Experts have expressed fears over the impact on projects if imported materials are significantly delayed entering the country, as well as concerns over the potential for labour shortages.
About 15% of products and materials used in UK construction and 7% of the workforce derive from the EU.
Reynolds said all the relevant trade associations and around 120 industry chief executives were being invited to the event.
Fellow CLC member Simon Rawlinson, head of strategic insight at consultant Arcadis, said the event would focus on the “real-life implications on projects” of Brexit over the next six months, but that its exact programme would be very dependent on political developments over the next couple of weeks. If the danger of a no-deal Brexit recedes, he said, the focus of the summit would shift away from the logistics of product imports to longer-term concerns around labour availability.