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How will the EU Referendum Affect the Construction Industry?

22nd June 2016

The upcoming EU referendum is fast approaching, as the voting date is tomorrow! It’s by far the biggest political issue of the generation, with the Brexit being the parliamentary subject on everyone’s lips.

Even Barrack Obama, President of the United States of America, has given his opinion on the matter. Here we’ve outlined the main outcomes that face the construction industry depending on how Britain votes in the EU Referendum.

Material Trading

If Britain votes to leave the EU, trade barriers could be introduced between the UK and EU for material goods, although this is likely to have little effect on the UK’s construction industry, as a large majority of the products used in UK construction are produced domestically. Imported goods are mainly used in order to plug up any sudden surges in demand or for the higher end of the industry, where more specific or bespoke products are required. Britain could still negotiate trade deals with the EU and other global markets if we chose to leave the EU, however doing so as a stand-alone nation might be more difficult.

Access to Labour

One aspect of the construction industry that is likely to be most heavily affected by a vote in favour of Brexit would be the availability of labour. Being in the EU means people can move freely between the UK and other EU member states allowing qualified workers to come and work in the UK, something the construction industry has relied on for many years. As we are in the midst of a skills shortage it has been suggested that if we were to vote to leave we could put more resources into upskilling our native workforce. However, figures show that this is unlikely to add up, with just 3% of Britain’s population being unemployed and 10% of the construction industry’s workforce coming from outside of the UK. If we chose to leave the EU we would be able to introduce new visa systems for these workers, although this could take years to implicate, plus the added time and effort could deter workers and steer them towards working in remaining EU countries, such as Germany or Spain.

Regulation

In terms of regulation, there will most likely be little change to the construction industry no matter which side gets the majority vote. Even though EU ‘red tape’ is often prone to criticism, it is unlikely that there will be any major changes to regulations in terms of the construction industry due to the fact that most EU measures, such as Health and Safety, are already fully embodied into UK law. Even though it would be entirely up to us as a nation if we want to change any regulations, it’s very unlikely that the UK will seek to amend or change these laws, and therefore a Brexit would have very little effect on regulations for the construction industry.

Investment

Similarly to access to labour, investment is one area in which the construction industry could be significantly impacted if the population does decide that a Brexit is the way forward. This is due to the fact that EU investments have funded a large number of significant projects and regeneration schemes, meaning that a loss of said funding could have an impact on the possibility of future schemes and projects. On the other hand, some argue that a loss of funding from the EU will be outweighed by the amount of savings gathered from UK contributions to the EU, some of which can then be invested into similar projects and schemes.

So where do you stand on the upcoming referendum? Either way, don’t forget to register your vote on 23rd June 2016.

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