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New RIBA survey reveals full extent of profession’s Brexit fears

RIBA Ben Derbyshire
  • 1 Comment

Frictionless access to the European Union single market following Brexit is vital to expanding international work, say three-quarters (74 per cent) of architects, a RIBA survey has found

The survey, carried out during December, reveals widespread fear in the profession about the prospect of a ‘hard’ Brexit.

It also found that the sector is already feeling the impact of the decision to leave the European Union, with more than two-thirds reporting that projects have been put on hold since the referendum.

Brrexit graphs

Brrexit graphs

RIBA president Ben Derbyshire said: ‘2018 is a critical year for the UK and while our architect members are adaptable and creative, the results from our survey show increasing uncertainty among the profession.

’While the UK Government has provided the headlines on the country’s future relationship with the EU, we need urgent action from them if the UK is to stem the talent exodus and inspire confidence in UK construction investment.’

We need urgent action if the UK is to stem the talent exodus

The survey found that concerns about frictionless access to the EU market are particularly prevalent among Northern Irish architects, many of whom work across the border.

Worries were also voiced on product standards, with the RIBA calling for the UK government to support the BSI’s continued membership of European standards bodies CEN and CENELEC.

The report said: ‘Divergence from these standards could leave the UK in an awkward half-way house, unable to compete with the cost of products from outside the EU, but risking its reputation for supporting the best standards.’

RIBA welcomed the government’s commitment that foreign qualifications already recognised by the Architects Registration Board will continue to be valid after Brexit.

However, respondents said that they want the agreement to cover new entrants into the profession.

Nearly half of architects in large practices said the loss of the current arrangements would lead to staff losses.

Labour shortages could be compounded by an exodus of talent, according to the survey. It found that 60 per cent of EU architects had considered leaving the UK since the EU referendum, a significant increase compared to 40 per cent in a previous survey, carried out last year.

RIBA chief executive Alan Vallance said: ’While our calls for continued mutual recognition of qualifications are being heard, many EU architects continue to face uncertainty about their future in the UK.

’This is unsustainable: it is having a real-time impact on recruitment and is unquestionably a threat to the success of our economy and society. The UK Government must make urgent decisions that allow the sector to thrive today.’

Meanwhile it has emerged that Conran and Partners is set to make a handful of redundancies, a decision it has blamed on the unpredictability of the market, partially caused by Brexit.

Brrexit graphs2

Brrexit graphs2

A spokesperson for the practice said: ’While we have a very strong order book for the coming year with some exciting opportunities in the pipeline we have, like many others in the industry, seen delays to the start of projects or stages of projects. There seems to be a general view that uncertainty – at least in part due to the Brexit process – is contributing to these delays. Our approach is to respond tactically to the current market situation, something which we have always done.’

He added: ‘It is with great regret that we’ve had to take the difficult decision to make a small reduction in the size of our overall team and we are currently in consultation with those people whose employment may be at risk.

We hope with greater clarity regarding the Brexit process the situation will improve significantly

’We are hopeful that, with greater clarity regarding the Brexit process, this situation will improve significantly. In the meantime, as a proactive response to the current economic climate and not least to spread our risks, we have been continuing to build on our longstanding international portfolio, including in Asia, where we have recently established a studio in Hong Kong.’

Key figures

  • 74 per cent of architects state that frictionless access to the European single market is a priority for expanding international work
  • Over two-thirds (68 per cent) of architects have reported projects put on hold, and more than two in five (43 per cent) architects have seen projects cancelled since the EU referendum (61 per cent had delays, 36 per cent had cancellations in 2017)
  • 71 per cent of architects are concerned that Brexit will have a negative impact on the built environment (60 per cent in 2017)
  • 60 per cent of EU architects have considered leaving the UK since the EU referendum (a significant increase compared to 40 per cent in 2017)
  • 1 Comment

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Readers' comments (1)

  • MacKenzie Architects

    Perhaps the RIBA should also do a survey of the profession to ask whether unconstrained access to world markets is vital to expand international work.

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