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Brexit fallout: Architect bodies join forces to demand free movement

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Leading architectural bodies have urged the governments in the UK and Ireland to protect free movement across Europe in the wake of the Brexit vote

Presidents and directors of five organisations – the RIBA, Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS), The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), Royal Society of Architects in Wales (RSAW) and Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) – released a joint statement following a meeting in Belfast earlier this week (see below).

The chiefs warned that the ‘uncertainty’ caused by the UK’s decision to leave the European Union could have a ‘major impact’ on the construction industry, and confirmed that projects had already been put on hold following the June referendum.

The statement said: ‘It is our view that the free movement of people, goods and services throughout Europe is of paramount importance to the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of these islands.

‘We call on the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as it negotiates the UK’s exit from the European Union, to protect free movement.’

RIBA president Jane Duncan said free movement was ‘vital for architects’ practices in the UK and the EU’. Meanwhile president of the RIAI, Carole Pollard, said it was ‘essential for a healthy and sustainable construction sector’.

Willie Watt, president of the RIAS, said Scottish architecture had been ‘greatly enriched’ by its cultural and trading ties with the UK and Europe.

Robert Firth, president of RSAW, said that Welsh architects should not ‘lose out’ on projects and funding they would have received in the EU. And Paul Crowe, president of the RSUA, said the ‘modest recovery’ since the recession was now in ‘jeopardy’.

The joint statement in full

‘The uncertainty caused by the result of the EU referendum in the UK could have a major impact on the construction industry across these islands, and we know that some building projects have been put on hold. Restoring stability and confidence as a matter of urgency will enable us to maximise the opportunities presented by the UK’s new relationship with the EU and the rest of the world. It is our view that the free movement of people, goods and services throughout Europe is of paramount importance to the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of these islands. We call on the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as it negotiates the UK’s exit from the European Union, to protect free movement.’

The calls come just days after the RIBA released new guidance outlining both the ‘challenges’ and ‘opportunities’ for architects following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

It highlighted five challenges: protecting the free movement of skills and services; retaining access to research funding; sustaining affordable EU product supply; keeping the profession skilled; and maintaining the strength of the UK’s architectural sector.

And it named five opportunities: strengthening the UK’s economy; new commercial and trade agreements; getting a competitive advantage in the EU and overseas markets; improving SME access to public sector projects by reforming UK procurement policy; and exploring changes to the UK’s VAT in order to boost production.

Read the RIBA policy briefing in full here

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Readers' comments (2)

  • MacKenzie Architects

    Well, I think the first thing they should do is go kick both the RIBA Competitions Dept, and central Government, to start launching the kind of open competitions that Europe does so well, and we look down our noses at.
    Give our European friends a quid pro quo (and as a great by-product, our young talented practices a chance to compete against the same-old, same-old shortlist practices in limited competitions that we tolerate.

    Then they could decide what the RIBA should do, and what ARB should not do.

    I would then suggest that they count how many graduates we are producing in our Architectural schools (of whatever nationality), and then check what prospects for employment these people have.

    From that, they should be able to calculate how free the borders might be for incoming architects. I hope there is loads of room, and I hope our UK-bred Architects have learned enough languages to work abroad too.

    Olive Wahr, ce soir!

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  • dominic cox

    the problem is the RIBA have no evidence to support the policy position - that the majority of its members support it. It would be straightforward to survey the membership distribution of Leavers and Remainers. Instead the pose of perfect bourgeois harmony is a repellant exhibition of the metropolitan Blairite elitism the country spurned last month.
    Secondly the assertion (misquoted above) that it is "pressing for continued free movement so vital for architects' practices in the UK" can't be true. There is growing anxiety (AJ student mental health survey) amongst UK students that employment opportunities are ever shortening for them, saddled with horrendous debt. The free movement of architects exacerbates that in a double whammy: depressing salaries and reducing employment for UK nationals. If the EU designers are better than UK designers - just say so, and encourage UK architecture students to go to far cheaper (and as the survey seems to suggest BETTER) european schools. The argument that Architecture is a special case in the Brexit negotiation must surely be quite specious?

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