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What would a no deal Brexit mean for architecture?

While the RIBA has been clear that architects want to see a Brexit deal agreed that safeguards the profession, we are planning for a no deal scenario. Last week the RIBA hosted a roundtable for practices with three government departments to discuss how a no deal Brexit could impact the sector.

07 February 2019

While the RIBA has been clear that architects want to see a Brexit deal agreed that safeguards the profession, nevertheless there is a risk of a no deal scenario that would see the UK exit the EU without a negotiated agreement in place; and it is right that the profession plans for every eventuality.

On Friday 1 February, the RIBA hosted a summit for architects with officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy working on the government’s contingency preparations for a no deal Brexit. The Departments were keen to re-iterate that leaving the EU with a deal remains the government’s top priority, but that they must plan for every eventuality, including a no deal scenario.

The summit brought together architects from small and large practices to share their priorities directly with government and discuss the support that government can provide the sector in a no deal outcome.

Architects were clear that Brexit has been a significant challenge. Practices reported delayed decisions on projects from clients and investors, as well as reports of EU national staff planning to leave the UK – confirming the findings of RIBA’s recent report Powered by people which found that two-thirds of international architects had considered leaving the UK due to Brexit.

“We have gotten used to being open – all of us have benefitted from people from Europe, as well as European suppliers, businesses and clients, being able to come to the UK easily.”

While practices welcomed the recent announcement that EU nationals will be able to travel visa-free to the UK for short periods in a no deal scenario, there was concern over the proposals in the government’s Immigration White Paper. Practices made it clear that they want to see government deliver a long-term immigration system which supports businesses across the sector.

Key to this is ensuring continued recognition of architects’ qualifications, even in a no deal scenario. While the government has confirmed that the UK will continue to recognise EU-qualified architects that the UK will continue to recognise EU-qualified architects should we leave with no deal, practices underlined their reliance on reciprocal recognition by the EU to support international work.

There was a consensus among architects that a no deal Brexit could lead to significant delays or cancellations to projects, while impacts on the cost or availability of products will affect the delivery of live projects. Drawing on the experience of the 2008 recession, practices underlined the need for significant investment in the sector by government to mitigate the impact of a possible downturn.

“Business continuity is important; government has to take steps to support the sector and the ecosystem we sit within and provide confidence in the economy.”

Other attendees cited the need to strengthen architectural education should the UK see a drop in new entrants to the sector from Europe and practices must rely more on UK-trained talent. The RIBA has called on government to commence a review of routes to registration to address the length of time it takes to train new domestic talent and encourage greater flexibility of routes into the profession through apprenticeships and academic routes.

The RIBA will continue to do everything possible over the coming weeks to champion our members at the highest level, ensure that our members’ concerns are heard and acted upon and that the specific needs of the sector are understood. Government is committed to maintaining an open dialogue with the sector to ensure that the government remains informed about challenges facing the sector throughout the Brexit process and beyond. You can read more about how a no deal Brexit might affect your practice, and the steps you may wish to take to prepare, by reading the RIBA’s guidance for practices.

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