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UK architects rush to register in Ireland ahead of Brexit

Brexit europe
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An increasing number of architects are registering in Ireland in a bid to avoid being frozen out of work on the continent in the event of a no-deal Brexit

Last week the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government set out measures to ensure that architects from EU member states could keep working in the UK after it leaves the union.

But the Architects Registration Board (ARB) immediately confirmed there would be no equivalent automatic right for UK-qualified practitioners to register in the EU.

As a result, more and more UK architects are applying to register in other EU countries, such as Ireland, so that their status will continue to be recognised throughout the European Union.

The ARB said it had issued 41 certificates for the purposes of UK nationals registering abroad in January alone – compared with 105 in the whole of 2016.

The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland confirmed it had seen a spike in registrations, adding that it ‘welcomed’ UK-qualified architects to Ireland.

’Our admissions team has noticed a significant increase in the number of enquiries from the UK,’ said chief executive Kathryn Meghen.

’Enquiries come from UK architects wishing to register in an EU country post-Brexit; from architects in Northern Ireland and the UK with projects in Ireland; and from Irish graduates working in the UK who are considering their options post-Brexit.’

Zorana Melovic, an associate at Mangera Yvars Architects – which has studios in London and Barcelona – said if reciprocal arrangements could not be agreed, the practice would have ‘major concerns’.

I’ve joined the RIAI register, but it is an expensive and time-consuming process which smaller practices may not have realised might be necessary

‘Right now we have both ARB and EU registered architects working for us both in the UK and in our offices in the EU,’ she said. ‘If some of our staff could not work as architects that would present difficulties.

‘We are well prepared for Brexit as an organisation, but the idea that senior staff or directors would not be able to use the title “architect” is not something we had envisaged.’

Stephen Bates, partner at London and Zurich based Sergison Bates, said: ‘[While] we are relieved that the government has decided to continue to recognise professional EEA qualifications … we certainly hope such recognition will be reciprocated by the EU.

‘[This] is crucial for us to continue working on the projects we are currently involved in in five EU member states.

He added: ‘In view of the unknowns of Brexit, we have been looking into establishing a branch of the office within the EU, in addition to our existing office in Zurich.’

Peter Drummond, of Glasgow-based Peter Drummond Architects, wondered whether practices would set up ‘satellite offices [with] employment of local staff … to allow continuing use of title and address areas where function remains protected’.

Drummond said he had looked to register as an architect abroad pre-Brexit to avoid difficulties in April and beyond.

‘Like a number of UK-based architects, I’ve joined the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland register,’ he said. ‘However, that is an expensive and time-consuming process which small and medium-sized practices may not have realised could become necessary.’

The RIAI said it was also in discussions with the Architects Council of Europe, ARB, RIBA and the Irish government to ensure that the potential implications of Brexit was understood. 

An ARB spokesperson added: ‘Under the current Architects Act 1997, we do not have the authority to formally enter into mutual recognition agreements with other countries.

‘We have been working closely with relevant government departments and hope to have more information in the near future on whether, and when, relevant adjustments will be made to our act to allow us to start formally moving things forward in this area.’

The RIBA said recognition of professional qualifications had been ‘a top priority’ since the 2016 referendum.

The institute pointed to an April 2018 meeting of the Architects Council of Europe where 43 regulatory and professional bodies from across the EU and beyond backed an RIBA motion calling on governments to support mutual recognition of qualifications.

‘We would like EU member states to match this commitment,’ said an RIBA spokesperson. ‘It is important that all parties work to ensure that EU and UK architects can continue to live and work across Europe, for the future of the profession and to mitigate some of the immediate impacts of Brexit.’

A government spokesperson said: ‘UK architects living in the EU before exit day will have their qualifications recognised. 

‘Both the UK and EU are committed to negotiating appropriate arrangements for the recognition of professional qualifications as part of the future relationship.

‘We have published guidance on actions that may need to be taken by citizens and businesses in the event of a no-deal online.’

What will happen if there is no deal…

The Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications directive will no longer apply to the UK and there will be no system of reciprocal recognition of professional qualifications between the remaining EEA states and the UK.

As such, the Architects Act 1997 will be amended via a statutory instrument to correct deficiencies in the system for recognition of professional qualifications that arise in law as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. This is to ensure that the current arrangement of automatic recognition of EEA-qualified architects operates as closely as is possible, subject to any immigration rules that may be in place.

In the event that the statutory instrument is not laid by exit day, the Architects Registration Board will continue operating under the current act for a short time, until the statutory instrument comes into force.

The key changes….

• The Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications directive system would cease

• The existing list of Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications directive qualifications will be ‘frozen’ on exit day and used as an initial reference source for relevant decisions

• Individuals seeking recognition under the new system would no longer need to be EEA nationals

• The section of the Architects Register known as Part 2 (for temporary and occasional services) would be withdrawn

• The route to registration in UK known as the General System would be withdrawn


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