Architects have hit out at Brexit secretary David Davis after he claimed the UK would be ‘more international’ after leaving the EU
Speaking to the Conservative Party Conference on Tuesday, Davis said: ‘We are a global nation … now we are leaving the European Union it allows us to be more international, not less. It requires us to face the world, not looking back … but with confidence and determination about the future, we will build.’
He added that he wants Britain to ‘to lead the world as a champion of free trade’
But Chris Bryant, director of small practice Alma-nac, said: ‘We were doing pretty well at being international as part of the EU, before Brexit. What is very worrying is the complete lack of detail – what does “more international” look like and what benefits does it bring?
’One would hope it would mean continuing to be able to attract the best talent to this country and allowing for seamless collaboration across borders. It would appear that it will bring more bureaucracy, paperwork and red tape rather than less.’
He concluded: ‘The most frightening aspect is how incompetent the government seems to be negotiating, planning, and communicating ideas. An omnishambles.’
The Brexit secretary also alluded to an alternative if the Brexit negotiations do not go as planned.
‘We are aiming for a good deal, and that’s what we expect to achieve,’ he said. ‘However, if the outcome of the negotiations falls short of the deal Britain needs, we will be ready for the alternative.’
PRP partner Manisha Patel criticised Davis’ comments, arguing that the UK needed a soft Brexit and that it will take a significant amount of time to set up trade deals with countries outside the EU.
‘Europe will remain our most important trading partner, no matter how good the deal on Brexit turns out,’ said Patel. ’This is why a good deal and a soft Brexit is so important – our trade with Germany alone dwarfs a country like India with a population ten times greater and one with which we have strong historic links.
‘We should worry about David Davis’s “alternative” if the UK fails to agree such a deal. The UK certainly has the potential to become a champion of free trade … however, setting up new trade deals with non-EU countries, even friendly states like Canada and the United States, will take several years. It is vital that, in the intervening years, we continue to trade with and have reasonable access to high-quality design and technical staff from the EU.’
Roger Hawkins of Hawkins\Brown told the AJ that Britain would still need a sturdy foothold within the EU if it is to establish trade partners beyond the union’s borders.
‘If we are going to expand into international markets we need a strong base within the EU allowing us to continue to collaborate with other European architects and employ EU nationals who contribute enormously to our skills and diversity,’ he said.
‘Hawkins\Brown is opening an office in LA and currently working on a major project in South Korea. Interestingly our clients in both of these places see us as European architects.’
Meanwhile, AHMM director Simon Allford said: ’I am pleased to report that Europe is still open to business with us, as we are with them, and indeed with the rest of the world. Despite the depressing stories I read in the papers, we are getting on with life – trying to build a better future which is the best and only thing to do.’
Also at the conference, international trade secretary Liam Fox reiterated the government’s intention to leave the EU and the single market at the end of March 2019. He said he wanted Britain to be the ‘unequivocal champions of free trade’ and have a ‘global, competitive economy’.