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RIBA defends EU referendum silence

Brexit2 gagged
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At a council meeting yesterday the institute stated its decision not to comment on the EU referendum was ‘correct’

The institute had come in for criticism for falling to take a position on referendum, with online commentators saying they were disappointed by the RIBA’s decision not to voice an opinion (see bottom).

Speaking in council yesterday (29 June), RCKa founder Russell Curtis said the institute’s stance had ‘frustrated’ members and he slammed the RIBA’s ‘lack of leadership’ over the matter.

But interim chief executive Alan Vallance defended the RIBA’s position, saying making any comments would have threatened the institute’s charitable status.

He said: ‘[Making any statement] would have put at risk £14 million of RIBA funds. We were frustrated, but the decision not to issue guidance was the correct one.’

Vallance admitted that the RIBA had been unprepared for the outcome. ‘We identified it as a risk but there was no contingency plan,’ he said.

We identified it as a risk but there was no contingency plan

RIBA president Jane Duncan moved to assure council that the institute was working hard to support them.

In a speech made to councillors she said: ‘The referendum result has plunged the UK into a period of significant uncertainty. I don’t need to rehearse the political, economic and cultural impacts so far – you are only too aware of them.

‘There is plenty of gloom but this result will also bring opportunities, and we are an innovative, flexible and resilient profession. My priority now is ensuring that our great profession comes out fighting from these uncertain times’.

She went on to outline the RIBA’s plan to respond to the result, including monitoring impact through its Future Trends reporting, writing to ministers Sajid Javid, John Whittingdale, Brandon Lewis and Greg Clarke, speaking to members and preparing the institute for a snap general election.

Her speech was followed by a debate in which councillors suggested what they thought the institute needed to do.

Councillor Edward Williams said the institute should put forward a clear strategy with a ’clear set of priorities [which] looked at all possibilities’. He added: ’These must result in increased opportunities around the globe.’

RIBA presidential candidate Ben Derbyshire called on the institute to create a cross-industry working party, while Owen Luder suggested the RIBA must speak to politicians to ensure the views of architects were heard.

‘There is going to be a negotiation – the EU needs us as much as we need them. We have to be a part of this negotiation. We need to be close to the politicians and decision makers. We need someone embedded as an expert. It is no good being on the outside’, said Luder. 

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