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Sovereignty is not a phrase to be abused lightly

Paul Finch

Architects have nothing to fear from a Brexit, writes Paul Finch

Distance can offer perspective, so while in Melbourne I read with puzzlement the statement by Prime Minister Cameron that leaving the EU would only give Britain ‘the illusion of sovereignty’. Surely the illusion of sovereignty is what we have now as a result of being an EU member, though not, thankfully, part of the Euro- or Schengen-zones. Quite clearly we do not have control over our own borders, a fundamental measure of whether you are in charge of your own country.

You always worry when language is abused, or obvious whoppers put about as absolute truth. If I read about one more ‘captain of industry’ claiming that we will not be able to trade with EU members if we were to leave Brussels behind us, I will run screaming for the Brexit. Do these people think we are really as stupid as they imagine? How do Japan, the USA, Canada and China trade with the EU when they are not members of it? With no great difficulty is the answer, since world trade is covered by GATT, not the EU.

And since our biggest EU trading partner is little old Ireland, we wouldn’t have much difficulty either, particularly as we run a trade deficit with the EU, but a surplus with the world beyond. Would architects suffer were we to leave? I can’t see why. Architecture is a global activity and anyone can work more or less anywhere if they want to. We would, however, be able to ditch EU procurement rules, thereby saving ourselves vast amount of time and money, with only lawyers regarding this as a matter for regret. We would also be able to stop the nonsense of people with EU-approved qualifications coming here and registering themselves as architects while our own folk have to study for longer and pay for the privilege.

I can’t see why architects would suffer if we left the EU

Would the construction industry collapse if we could not rely on cheap foreign labour? The answer is there would be some disruption in the short term but it would soon fade. We would start training people in large numbers again, though whether the Construction Industry Training Board is the right organisation to do it is another matter, given its long-term failure to generate sufficient workers (hence the imports).

Scare stories will come thick and fast as we approach the EU referendum, not least the ‘threat’ by Scottish Nationalists to call another referendum should a Brexit vote triumph. I can’t say the threat frightens me much and, were Scotland to leave, it could rely on economic success stories like Greece and Portugal to give it hand-outs instead of the English. We would save even more money than we would already be doing by no longer paying billions to Brussels every year for little or no return.

The EU is a bloated corporate, with a record of financial irregularities that leave FIFA and the IAAF looking like small fry, run by a cult who think of European integration as the Holy Grail of world politics. It is, of course, completely meaningless, except in the sense that EU citizens can go and live anywhere they like, whatever the social cost to the host communities who begin to experience being a host in a biological sense.

One nice piece of gossip from Sydney: Goldman Sachs has come to the conclusion that the best way to reform the EU would be for Germany to pull out of the Euro and reconstitute the Deutschmark, allowing Euros to float against the Neumark, thereby rebalancing/resetting their economies. This is such a good idea that in EU mind-sets it is completely unthinkable.


Readers' comments (7)

  • The clearest appraisal of the UK situation that I have read since David Cameron returned from his negotiations. Paul Finch for PM. I say!

    John Shardelow

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  • On EU procurement rules, as an example of the unintended consequences of EU rules, may I offer the example of TfL's recent rejigging of its developer framework. I think of something like 19 on the original list, nearly all bid again, and 13 were appointed, mostly re-appointed. That process involved a pretty detailed proposal for a scheme. Each developer assembled a big development and design team. I don't know what it cost each developer to re-pitch for their place on the slippery pole, but we could put a conservative value of around, say £250K per bid. I bet some spent substantially more. 19 x £250K - the thick end of £5m spent speculatively to comply with EU procurement rules. That is a pretty substantial investment, arguably not out of proportion to TfL's development plans, but that money might otherwise have been spent on the quality of development. Are we spending too much private money on overly complex public procurement procedures? A bit of glasnost/perestroika in this area might help. These sorts of spec investment preclude all but the largest development companies.

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  • Yes, and the EU's corporatist ideology makes it increasingly difficult for anybody but the biggest organizations to stand a chance of winning certain sorts of work for public projects across Europe. the EU stands for big business, wich is why the CBI sheep keep bleating about how important it is to stay in. And of course those big employers love cheap labour from across the continent.

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  • Brilliant corrective to David Chipperfield’s piece.

    As I understand it WTO has replaced GATT and would obtain after Brexit with the UK rejoining the global community. The multilateral trading system WTO includes not just trade in goods but also services, intellectual property rights and a dispute mechanism. It would automatically apply in place of the EU Customs Union.

    Fascinating to learn that 1. Ireland is our biggest trading partner and 2. the Goldman Sachs recommendation ! This referendum was unthinkable not so long ago in the Euro Mindset - with any luck the Euro-chains might just get unlocked - and not just for Germany.

    Great point that EU-approved qualification privilege would end, as all EU privilege over the rest of the world would for all relations - totally unacceptable, arbitrary and destructive.

    Brexit or no Brexit, the SNP will be rooting for independence. However post-Brexit, Scotland might on reflection prefer to avoid the 'attractions' of the EU, the Euro and Schengen - that’s if the EU survives a potential onslaught of referenda from other nations post-Brexit. One of Scotland’s six MEPs is even UKIP and nearly 30% of the SNP are pro-Brexit. Scotland would have to reapply for full membership of the EU but British opt-outs would not automatically apply to an independent Scotland and handouts would be trumped by poorer nations like Turkey or Serbia. Britain and the £ could be seen as a safe haven.

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  • Horrible article highly discriminatory towards us Europeans professionals. I'm shocked and I think a magazine like AJ should avoid publishing certain articles. : .................................................
    ......."We would also be able to stop the nonsense of people with EU-approved qualifications coming here and registering themselves as architects while our own folk have to study for longer and pay for the privilege" ..Thanks Mr. Paul Finch!

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  • Agree with Matteo,
    Not to mention that with a current architects unemployment level at the lowest it's been in years, architectural practices need to import workforce anyway. Surely the current system (if imperfect), with a comparable and agreed set of requirements for the qualification is better than a free for all?
    (that's the eu directive 2013/55/EU).

    I'm not really sure the 'UK study longer' argument is a very good one : it's not necessarily true, and architects who are ready to immigrate and work in the UK (often in a foreign language) will likely make positive contributions - the lazy ones have long stayed at home!

    As for the University fees, I can't help feeling sorry for younger colleagues. I'd ask the same question Paul : why do they have to fork out so much for the privilege of their studies, when most European countries fees are a fraction of the UK ones?

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  • I too dislike the fee system which discriminates against people from working-class background; we do not have a simple regulatory system that applies to all; I am quite happy for overseas architects to come here by invitation, as they would be if there is a shortage. Ditto doctors etc.

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