Will it be boom or bust for UK construction post Brexit?

Will it be boom or bust for UK construction post Brexit?

Thursday 23rd June 2016 will forever be remembered in Britain as the day we voted to leave the European Union after being a member for 43 years. Once the initial shock dissipated, and the dust started to settle, many questions arose as we contemplated stepping into the relative unknown. Construction wise, issues such as the skills gap, uncertainty over current and future projects, and a slowdown in house building concerned many. But what will the reality be?

Brexit

Uncertainty

Well until we know the exact terms of the Brexit bill, it’s hard to predict. As protracted negotiations continue, industry experts will speculate. That uncertainty in itself can cause concern. Of course in most cases, uncertainty is never a good thing, particularly when you consider large scale projects that are currently in progress could be effected. As UK engineers and other construction professionals are working flat out to complete massive projects in the UK, including Crossrail and the Thames Tideway Tunnel, will Brexit affect investment in these construction projects, as well as the cost and availability of materials and labour?

Investment

On a positive note, since the referendum, there hasn’t been any slowdown in investors wanting to invest in UK infrastructure projects. Moreover, whilst industry experts concede there will undoubtedly be changes to our working practices when we leave, they don’t predict a seismic shift that will have an adverse effect. Many will feel leaving the EU caused an unnecessary layer of panic around UK construction as a whole, at a time when confidence in the industry was very high. However the initial signs are not too negative and it remains important we do all we can to retain that confidence.

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Access to Labour

One of the major concerns about leaving the EU is access to labour. The free movement of labour between the UK and other EU member states is a valuable asset to the construction industry – with a significant number of skilled and non-skilled roles filled by non-UK nationals. The worry is that skilled construction workers will now opt to work in countries such as France or Germany. As there is already growing concern of the skills gap in UK construction, this could further the problem. However, supporters of the leave campaign claim that splitting from the EU could benefit UK workers. Without the competition of construction workers travelling from the continent, UK professionals may have access to a bigger selection of roles in the construction industry.

Loss of funding

Loss of funding is another issue once Britain packs up and leaves. Many different funds have been extremely beneficial to the UK for regeneration projects up and down the country. It will be up to the Government to work out how to make up for any potential shortfall caused by a loss in funding.

Brexit

Whichever side of the fence you are on, it is very hard to say with any real conviction what will happen when Britain does eventually leave the EU. We hear daily of a stalemate in negotiations, of claims and counter claims from the UK and Brussels. For the moment, large scale projects continue and we continue to trade with the EU. Once the picture becomes clearer, we can plan accordingly, until that moment comes, the message seems to be watch this space.

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