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How has the RIBA delivered on Brexit priorities for architects?

Through surveys, research and roundtables, thousands of architects have let us know their priorities for the UK’s post Brexit trade deal. How has the RIBA delivered on these priorities for architects?

04 January 2021

Through surveys, research and roundtables, thousands of architects have let us know their priorities for the UK’s post Brexit trade deal. The RIBA used this information to draw together core policy priorities, and met with Cabinet Ministers, MPs, civil servants, industry and more to advocate for these changes.

With the UK now entering into its new trading relationship with the EU, read an update on how the policy priorities of architects have been matched.

New global deals, with standards and professionalism at their heart

The EU is an important market for architects and architecture. RIBA members were clear that a new deal should make access easy, while protecting and promoting the best possible standards.

The UK government agreed that an ongoing recognition of professional qualifications agreement with the EU, and committed to it as a priority through its Brexit White Papers. However, they were unable to come to an agreement with the EU over this issue, affecting each regulated profession covered by the Professional Qualifications Directive.

The Architects Registration Board (ARB) has confirmed that, for the time being, EU and EEA qualified architects will be able to continue to register in the UK on the same basis as before. The UK-EU agreement also states that there is scope for a new agreement to take place.

The UK government has stated that the agreement will keep environmental standards and workers’ rights on a par. However, it will now be a matter of domestic regulation to determine what these standards will be, so it is likely that there will be divergences over time.

Support growth in the export of architecture

The UK government has increasingly recognised the valuable role that UK architecture plays internationally. However, RIBA members reflected that the government support available was not fit for the export of services.

The UK government has been working on new trade deals in other territories such as the USA, Australia and New Zealand. We continue to advocate that any new trade agreement must open the potential for new recognition of professional qualification agreements. The Building Safety Bill provides powers to the ARB to begin this process, which is a welcome move forward.

The RIBA is a core member of the Creative Industries Trade and Investment Board. The board was established in 2018, bringing together government and industry to provide strategic insight and support for architecture at the top levels of decision-making.

Access to the best talent and skills, through a reformed immigration system that works for architects

The UK government reformed the immigration system. Architects identified the previous system as bureaucratic and costly, with a system of salary thresholds that made it difficult for small practices and those outside of London to recruit.

In 2019, the RIBA published Powered by people: building a post-Brexit immigration system for the UK, the result of new research on the role of international architects working in the UK, and hosted meetings between policy makers and architects to help inform the new system. As a result:

  • There has been a reduction in the time, cost and salary thresholds associated with recruiting international architects
  • New Exceptional Talent and Exceptional Promise immigration routes have established for architects
  • Architectural Assistant roles are now included in the new immigration system, which means that international architects can apply
  • Architects are now included on the Shortage Occupation List
  • The definition of ‘new entrant’ has been expanded to cover those working towards a professional qualification, meaning that pathway to studying and qualifying in the UK is easier for students and young professionals
  • The two year post study work visa has been reintroduced, helping international students at UK universities undertake their placements here

Supporting the construction sector to deliver for UK communities

RIBA members felt that international ambitions should be met with domestic support, putting design at the heart of new communities. Our asks of government included supporting devolution deals, and helping mitigate some of the knocks in economic confidence that were being associated with the course of the Brexit negotiations. Since 2020, coronavirus has clearly impacted significantly on the UK construction sector, and therefore has been a focus of our lobbying.

This has included:

  • Advocating for the UK government to update and make available its infrastructure plans to ensure greater confidence in the construction market
  • Driving the agenda on housing and planning, through our responses to critical issues such as the Planning for the Future consultation
  • Successfully advocating for the UK government to introduce greater flexibilities into the planning process to allow projects to move ahead during coronavirus, such as the greater use of digital tools
  • Publishing new policy reports on issues such as role of social housing, decarbonising the housing stock, and the value of Post Occupancy Evaluation

Read more about our Brexit work.

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