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New Brexit survey: 40 per cent of overseas architects considering leaving UK

Brexit europe

An RIBA survey has revealed that 40 per cent of non-British EU nationals working as architects in this country are now considering moving abroad

With this group making up a quarter of all UK-registered architects, the impact of a such an exodus could be significant.

The figure was released yesterday (see attached at bottom) by the institute as part of its wider investigation into the concerns and opportunities for the profession in the wake of last year’s EU referendum. 

The survey of 1,100 architects also showed that 61 per cent of the RIBA’s members had seen projects delayed – a worryingly higher figure than the 51 per cent who reported stalled schemes in the AJ’s own survey in August. A further 37 per cent reported schemes being cancelled, while four in 10 said they had seen an increase in materials prices and construction costs.

More than 65 per cent said they were concerned about the future impact of Brexit on their businesses.

RIBA president Jane Duncan said: ‘We can’t shut our doors to talent and expect the world to open its markets to us. The UK needs an immigration system that recognises the benefits and importance of the UK being an attractive place to work for ambitious architects from around the world.

‘It’s vitally important that the government acts to confirm that those already working and studying in the UK will be able to remain.’

We can’t shut our doors to talent and expect the world to open its markets to us

Jane Duncan

However, the figures also revealed that many architects were hopeful Brexit could lead to wholesale reform of the UK’s ‘inefficient public procurement system’, and the RIBA claimed its members had ‘made it clear that with the right decisions the short-term impacts of Brexit could be mitigated, and the UK could position itself as a global-facing nation’.

In response to the survey the RIBA has published a set of five priority recommendations for government in a new document Global by Design: How the government can open up new opportunities for UK architects.

The institute says that for the UK to thrive as a global hub for architecture, the country must:

  • have access to the best talent and skills
  • sign trade agreements that open access to foreign markets
  • provide support for education, research and innovation
  • take action to address the UK’s competitiveness crisis including infrastructure investment
  • maintain common standards and low compliance costs.

Duncan added: ‘Architects recognise that the UK must shape a new role for itself after we exit the EU – and we are already responding to that challenge. But we need leadership and support from the government if the UK is going to maintain and strengthen its role as a global centre for architecture.

‘We need the government to secure agreements that ensure that our qualifications continue to be recognised in the EU and increase access to new markets outside of the EU, maintain high common product and environmental standards consistent with Brand UK abroad, and address the structural challenges that threaten the UK’s attractiveness as a place to live, work and invest.’

But procurement expert and architect Russell Curtis of RCKa said: ‘Until we start to get a sense of the government’s Brexit strategy, it seems premature to predict the likely effects on the profession. It’s right that we should be trying to influence the negotiations in favour of an open, accessible market but, sadly, I think the concerns of architects are pretty low down on the list of government priorities.’

He added: ‘I’m intrigued by the suggestion that extracting ourselves from the obligations of the OJEU system will result in an improvement of the public procurement market. While it is flawed, at least OJEU requires a degree of transparency and consistency. The responsibility for inefficient public procurement actually lies solely in the hands of UK public bodies; nowhere else in Europe do they make such a hash of it.

‘Unleashed from the shackles of OJEU, rather than becoming more streamlined and efficient, I fear we’ll simply see further fragmentation and increased opacity within the market.’ 

But David Green, director of Belsize Architects and former head of the European division of the Bank of England, said: ‘It is very good to see the RIBA taking the initiative on the opportunities and risks from Brexit.

’The most pressing need is for architects to lobby politicians to make sure that they understand what architects, and other components of the UK global construction design hub, need to have retained in our future relationship with the EU.’

Are you from a EU country and considering leaving the UK to work elsewhere? Leave a comment below to tell us why.


Readers' comments (7)

  • can't wait - now many of us economically displaced and exiled because of cheap EU labour might be able to afford to come home, but only on Corbyn terms it must be added. The value of our skills to the real estate market is colossal, for which the profession is willing to offer only a suicidal £35k pa gross - less than 2006 rates ! That stinks. A top earner director effectively takes home 350k pa (you only have to look at the market rental value of their homes, and second homes). We must have 1/10th of that entry level = 50k pa gross for part III, and 1/6th of that for seniors = 80k pa gross for 15+ yrs experience.

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  • John Kellett

    The UK 'architectural' profession, unlike in most the the EU and in the USA etc is inundated by persons who are not architects but mascarading as architects. Brexit and the EU are not the problem, the Government's refusal to prevent unqualified persons from sticking 'architectural' in front of their job description, when they have no training in architecture, thus leading the general public into believing they are architects is disgraceful. Nearly all 'property' media (including RIBAJ!) has referred to unqualified persons as architects at some point! The message that ONLY architects are architects needs to got across more effectively, the law is ignored. Why?

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  • ben.darnton@frame-recruitment.com

    Right now, candidate activity suggests that the UK is and continues to be a priority location when moving jobs within the EU.
    I would speculate that for every person who has observed the BREXIT process unfold and will actually leave the UK, there are at least an equal number of qualified architects keen to come in.

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  • JustFacades.com

    We often work with EU architects / technicians and designers in London, it is completely the norm nowadays and great to see. We would encourage them if suitably qualified to register with the ARB aswell to give them more status. Personally i feel It would be a real shame to see these people return home when many of them have so much to offer the UK and help our economy.

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  • As an EU citizen, I think we need to look at the option of leaving. There is currently no security for residency in the UK for EU citizens. EU offers permanent residency once you have been resident for over 5 years but the UK bureaucratic process makes this very difficult and the outcome is not certain.

    The whole notion of nationality needs to be questioned. My citizenship is in a country of which I have never been resident and I am sure this is the case for many. The UK is my home.

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  • Maybe this will kick start decentralisation away from London and encourage building a framework around remote working? Adopting this way of working would shield us from this sort of uncertainty in a post-brexit & post-trump world.

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  • Lol - it's not just overseas architects leaving rip-off britain. eventually the smug, beautiful, white, starchitectural practices will have to recruit the stephen lawrences, not just award themselves prizes in his name.

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