EU Referendum and Construction: Round-up of first reactions

Ahead of the In/Out referendum on Europe on June 23rd, business organisations and companies across the UK have begun to set out their positions on the upcoming vote.

Building Magazine just released a poll showing nearly two-thirds of those surveyed wanted to stay in the EU; almost 30% wanted to quit, with the rest undecided. More significantly, the CBI’s Head of Construction and Manufacturing, Laura Smith, suggested it has already affected the mood of investors. “We have heard anecdotally from some of our members that investment decisions are beginning to be affected,” Smith said. “As we get into the depths of the campaign we may begin to see investment decisions paused.” The article also quotes Simon Rawlinson, Head of Strategic Research and Insight at Arcadis UK, arguing that delays in investment decisions might lead to a shortage of supply of commercial property space in 2018/2019.

Simon Rubinsohn, Chief Economist of The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyers, takes a measured view of the forthcoming debate, but highlights the uncertainty around the vote on independence for Scotland – RICS data showed a drop in investment enquiries in the second and third quarter of 2014 during the run-up to the vote. He also cites analysis by the OECD that casts “some doubt on the suggestion that either regulatory or employment laws emanating from Brussels are major factors inhibiting British business.”

Meanwhile, in their coverage of the headline-grabbing report by BlackRock (the UK’s largest fund manager), the finance website Thisismoney notes the report’s judgement that “London's commercial property market could also be at risk from a Brexit and has a ‘lot to lose’ if global investors pull out of property deals.”

"we could lose influence on the future for Standards of design"

Other reaction so far has focused mainly on the issue of skills and labour shortages. Inside Housing quoted a spokesperson for the Home Builders Federation: “While the industry is recruiting heavily and training thousands of young people it does currently rely on skilled labour from abroad. If it is to maintain the significant increases in output of the past two years, it is imperative it has access to an adequate supply of labour.” There is a concern that the lack of skilled labour would increase the housing shortage.

In Infrastructure Intelligence, Antony Smith, Senior Partner at law company Beale & Company, looks more broadly at the legal issues of an ‘out’ vote affecting the industry, including environmental law, procurement, health and safety, freedom of movement and Euro Codes. On the issue of Euro Codes he writes, “these are now part of our heritage.  Will we go back to the old British Standards? Will [we] be as welcome on the Euro Code drafting committees? This means that we could lose influence on the future for standards of design.”

The debate begins. 

Feature image David Iliff, used under Creative Commons Licence

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