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Last-minute law change boosts EU-qualified architects ahead of Brexit

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The RIBA has confirmed that UK law has changed to ensure EU-qualified architects can continue to practise in this country, just in time for the original Brexit date

Earlier this year minister set out plans to amend the Architects Act 1997 allowing an interim system of recognition for architects with an approved and valid qualification from a European Economic Area state.

The law change, which was passed by the Commons this month, is designed to overcome the invalidation of EU architecture credentials in this country in the event of a hard Brexit. 

Although widely welcomed, the approved system had its critics when it was initially proposed in January. Speaking at the time, Invisible Studio founder Piers Taylor said the proposals were ‘very poor compared to what we have, which allows freedom of movement with no minimum income threshold’. He added: ‘Qualifications are no use if you can’t come here and can’t stay.’ Taylor has repeatedly warned of a ‘Brexodus’ of EU nationals from UK practices.

Meanwhile RIBA president Ben Derbyshire and chief executive Alan Vallance both turned to social media this week to urge ministers and MPs to get a grip of the spiralling Brexit chaos.

Despite several months of warnings about the threat to the country of leaving the EU without a deal, there were frantic scenes at Parliament in the run-up to the long-promised but ultimately meaningless departure date of 29 March.

Theresa May was forced to promise her own party she would step down as prime minister before the next round of negotiations with Brussels if she could just get her much-lamented exit agreement approved in time to avoid a hastily revised hard Brexit date of 12 April. The pledge was unsuccessful, with the Commons rejecting the deal for the third time earlier today.

MPs then failed to reach a majority in favour of any of eight alternatives for breaking the deadlock that has stymied attempts to conclude the Brexit process within the initial timeframe.

Derbyshire said on Twitter on Wednesday: ‘Another dramatic turn in Parliament as the prime minister announces she will step down for the next stage of negotiations. The next 48 hours is crucial: we need clarity and direction from government. At RIBA we say no deal Brexit is no option.’

Vallance added the same evening: ‘News from Downing Street that the prime minister will step down provides little clarity. Politicians must end the political stalemate and avoid no-deal Brexit at all costs.’

The RIBA chief executive has long warned against leaving decisions over the UK’s future relationship with the rest of the continent this late.

He said back in January: ‘To be weeks away from leaving the EU with no deal or alternative places businesses in an impossible situation. Our politicians cannot leave the public in limbo and business to sort out the situation – they must work together to end the uncertainty.’

Last year the RIBA issued its own emergency advice to architects about running their businesses in the event of a no-deal Brexit – guidance that included how to prepare for issues with visas, supply chains and accounting.

RIBA research showed in February that a large number of big architecture practices were preparing to slash staff numbers as the prospect of a no-deal Brexit loomed.

It also emerged 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.

Norman Foster and David Chipperfield signed a letter in January stating the priority for the prime minister had to be avoiding ‘crashing out of the EU with no deal at all’. 

Greater London Authority data released in March showed that 31 per cent of architecture jobs in the capital were held by non-UK members of the union. Further findings included that £571 million of architectural services were exported from the UK in 2018.

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