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Brexit facts affecting architects

This briefing outlines what we know so far, what is still to be agreed between the UK and the EU, and the likely impact of Brexit for architects and RIBA members.
  • today 03 December 2019
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The UK’s exit from the European Union will have far-reaching implications for RIBA members, the architecture profession and the built environment sector. As the UK Government negotiates a new relationship with the EU it is likely that rules affecting the freedom to live, work and do business, product and environmental standards in the construction sector and funding for higher education, research and investment will change.

This briefing outlines what we know so far, what is still to be agreed between the UK and the EU, and the likely impact for RIBA members. We will update this briefing when there are significant developments throughout the negotiation.

When will the UK leave the EU?

The UK Government triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on 29 March 2017. The UK Government has stated that it now intends for the UK to leave the EU on 31 October 2019, regardless of whether an agreement is made over the terms of the UK's withdrawal.

This means there is a possibility that the UK will trade with the EU on WTO terms after this date. The UK Government is encouraging citizens and businesses to prepare for this possibility. You can find out more information on the RIBA's 'No Deal' Brexit webpage.

If the UK Government and EU do come to an agreement on the terms of the UK's withdrawal, it is likely that there will be a transition period from 31 October under which the UK and EU will continue to trade on the same terms.

Living and working in the UK and the EU

Until the end of the UK's membership of the EU, there will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens living and working in the UK or UK nationals in the EU. EU citizens who are already living and working in the UK are able to apply for 'pre-settled' or 'settled status' with the Home Office. The deadline for applications is dependent on whether the UK leaves the European Union with or without a an agreement on the terms of Withdrawal. For more information please visit www.gov.uk.

The government has stated that freedom of movement from the EU will end and be replaced by a new immigration system. The RIBA is engaging with government to make the case for a post-Brexit immigration system which works for UK architecture and allows the profession to continue accessing the best global talent, as well as providing certainty and security for international architects practising in the UK. You can read the RIBA’s report 'Powered By People: Building an Immigration System for UK Architecture' here.

The European Professional Qualifications Directives (EPQD) provides for the mutual recognition of architects’ professional qualifications across the EU. The UK Government and EU Commission have agreed that architects that have already had their qualifications recognised in the UK or EU member state will continue to benefit from this recognition post-Brexit.

In the case of a 'no deal' Brexit, EEA qualified architects will be able to register with the Architects Registration Board. For more information, please read the UK Government's technical notice on the recognition of professional qualifications in the UK here.

UK qualified architects are advised to contact the relevant EU regulator to discuss recognition if they are not already recognised by that regulator. For more information, please read the European Commission's notice on the recognition of professional qualifications in the EU here.

Ensuring the continuity of the mutual recognition of professional qualifications is a key policy priority for the RIBA we continue to make the case for this with government. You can read the RIBA’s paper on mutual recognition of professional qualifications here.

Doing business in the EU

UK architects will continue to have full access to the EU Single Market, and enjoy tariff-free trade with the EU market under the European Union Customs Union, until the end of the UK's membership of the EU. Tariff and import restrictions on goods and the service sector will remain unchanged throughout this period.

The UK Government’s objective for the Brexit negotiations is to secure a customs agreement with the EU which provides for the frictionless movement of goods, and a free trade agreement that does not involve being a member of its Single Market. However, the UK’s future relationship with the EU will be determined by negotiations between Britain and the EU27 and we do not know yet what this will look like after the end of transition.

Public procurement

The UK’s public procurement system is based on the European Procurement Directives, which are in turn based on the World Trade Organisation Government Procurement Agreement. Issues like the procurement threshold and the requirement to open all contracts above this value to competition will be maintained during negotiation.

For architects bidding for public contracts in the EU, no immediate changes are likely. EU law expressly forbids any weight in a procurement decision being given to the country of origin of a bid for a public contract. As such, access to public contracts for UK bids is not dependent on the UK’s membership of the EU.

Product and environmental standards

Until the UK leaves the EU, European law will continue in practice to apply in the UK including new European law passed by the EU during this period. The government has legislated to incorporate existing EU law into domestic law via legislation so that standards that exist in UK law will remain in force even when relevant EU Directives and regulations no longer apply. Once the UK leaves, however, there may be greater flexibility for UK Government to change standards, depending on the nature of the agreement between the UK, EU and with other nations.

The BSI - the UK's standards body - has stated that its membership of the International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission will not be affected by withdrawal from the EU. While the UK remains a member of the EU, the BSI will retain membership of European standardisation organisations CEN and CENELEC. The BSI has stated that it will be working with government to assess its relationship with European organisations.

The RIBA believes that it is crucial that the UK’s exit from the EU does not compromise built environment quality or sustainability by starting a short-sighted race to the bottom on standards, or allowing standards to be eroded through statutory instruments with minimal parliamentary scrutiny.

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