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Brexit uncertainty ‘hits home hard’ for architects

Drop decrease down fall
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Architects have reported a dearth of new enquiries, a reduction in job applications from Europe and pressure on fees as the UK’s laboured withdrawal from the EU continues to exasperate the profession

The RIBA’s latest Future Trends poll found that workloads were 6 per cent lower in the three months to February 2019 than in the same period the prior year, while staffing levels were 3 per cent down over the same period.

The UK is currently due to leave the EU next week, though Parliament has voted against doing so either with or without the deal negotiated by Theresa May. The prime minister is in Brussels today trying to secure a later exit date.

RIBA executive director members Adrian Dobson said the uncertainty was weighing heavily on architecture firms.

‘February 2019 seems to be the month when the political uncertainty over Brexit really hit home hard for the architectural profession,’ he lamented.

‘Many of our participating practices reported a stall in enquiries and evidence of increasing reluctance from clients to commit to projects. Practices also reported a significant drop in job applications and speculative CVs from EU students and architects.

‘The overall tenor of the anecdotal reports was of frustration at the Brexit impasse. Several practices commented that the political and economic context created a difficult environment, leading to slow decision-making by prospective clients and renewed pressure on fees.’

January’s poll showed that a large number of big architecture practices were preparing to slash staff numbers.

The overall Future Trends Staffing Index recovered marginally in February, with slightly more practices expecting to increase numbers over the next three months than decrease them.

However, more than eight in ten firms predicted unchanged headcount and the RIBA said the employment market for salaried architects ‘appears stagnant’.

There was a marginal bounceback in anticipated workloads, with 26 per cent of those polled forecasting a rise over the next quarter, against 22 per cent eyeing a fall. More than half of the 233 firms polled expected workloads to remain constant.

Practices in London were the most negative about incoming workloads, followed by those in Wales and the West and then the Midlands and East Anglia.

Architecture firms in the north of England stayed the most optimistic, followed by those in the South (outside the capital).

Private housing work is expected to rise slightly; private non-housing work is forecast to remain constant.

Community-sector output is predicted to fall slightly, with public sector project values anticipated to drop even more.

Norman Foster and David Chipperfield signed a letter earlier this year stating that the prime minister’s priority had to be avoiding ‘crashing out of the EU with no deal at all’.

Meanwhile it emerged in February that an increasing number of architects were registering in Ireland in a bid to avoid being frozen out of work on the Continent in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

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