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UK architecture’s reliance on EU nationals revealed

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Three in ten London architects are from other parts of the EU, research has revealed

Greater London Authority data showed that 31 per cent of architecture jobs in the capital were held by non-UK members of the union.

Released to coincide with the MIPIM property fair and Theresa May’s latest attempts to get a Brexit plan through Parliament, the figures throw the spotlight back on the importance of securing a system that allows talent to flow into the sector from abroad.

With the UK due to leave the EU on 29 March, concerns have grown over the impact on the construction sector. RIBA chief executive Alan Vallance said in January that a no-deal Brexit would be ‘a disaster for the UK’.

London Festival of Architecture director Tamsie Thomson said today: ‘Following the meaningful votes, we need meaningful engagement with our EU and international partners to ensure the continued success of London’s architecture sector after Brexit.

‘Here at MIPIM, we are proud to be telling the world that London is open, with an architecture sector that transcends boundaries, contributes so much to our economy, and thrives on talent from around the world. But we’re also telling the government to think carefully about what’s at stake as the Brexit process continues. The period ahead of us must be used to provide certainty and security for individuals and businesses if the success of London’s architecture sector is to continue.’

The research found 22,175 architects working in London across 4,490 workspaces. 

Further findings from the GLA, which used new methodology and Office for National Statistics data, included:

  • Last year London’s architecture sector produced £1.6 billion in gross value added (GVA) – a measure of the value of goods and services produced
  • £571 million of architectural services were exported from the UK in 2018.

Deputy mayor for planning, regeneration and skills Jules Pipe said: ‘London is home to some of the world’s leading architects and, as this fascinating research clearly shows, the sector continues to be a powerful economic driver, supporting thousands of jobs and making a massive contribution to our economy.’

The government earlier this year set out plans to continue to recognise EU-qualified architects even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

But Invisible Studio founder Piers Taylor, who has repeatedly warned of a ‘Brexodus’ of EU nationals from UK practices, 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.’

Architecture jobs could be under pressure across the UK as a result of the UK’s planned exit from the EU. RIBA research last month showed 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 last month 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 earlier this year stating the priority for the prime minister had to be avoiding ‘crashing out of the EU with no deal at all’. 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • John Kellett

    Nonsense, there are plenty out of work or under worked U.K. architects outside London who have changed profession due to the low salaries. The exodus of EU citizens, who appear to be willing to accept a low salary (because from it is higher than they were getting at home), is just a smoke screen for derisory salary levels. Which in turn is caused by the Government’s refusal to ban unqualified people from designing buildings.

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