It’s a big question: What impact will Brexit have on the Built Environment in Wales?
I think we’d all appreciate it if there was a simple answer to this question, yet unfortunately there isn’t in part because being a member of the EU has formed the basis upon which we’ve undertaken business activity and shaped our society for the last 47 years.
As our departure from the EU is now less than two months away we can expect to see an increasing number of reports from industry bodies highlighting Brexit related concerns and issues that need to be addressed across all sectors. One of the most recent has been the Brexit Report Nov 2020 has been published by The National Federation of Builders. For the built environment it highlights key concerns relating to: the supply chain, the availability and cost of labour, along with the need to review contracts.
These concerns echo those I’m consistently hearing from businesspeople in Wales, and the uncertainty of not knowing what the exact situation will be on 1st January 2021 is compounding this concern further. In particular, disruption and delays in the supply chain that could result in materials and components being delayed in getting into the UK has the potential to bring construction sites and production lines to a standstill. In terms of our exports to Europe if they too are subject to delays we risk losing customers. In these scenarios the impact to the built environment would initially be felt by those affected businesses and their employees.
However, in a climate of uncertainty it can be all too easy to focus on these types of worst case scenarios, and we should remember that our business counterparts from across Europe want to sell to us. Ultimately it’s in all of our interests to ensure that after leaving the EU trade can continue as smoothly as possible, this is of course in the hands of our elected UK and their counterpart EU representatives, and although time is in short supply there is still time for a trade deal that would work for businesses to be agreed.
In light of the US Presidential Election result it wouldn’t be surprising if, in the coming weeks, the UK Brexit negotiating team became more determined to establish a trade deal with the EU. We’ve rapidly moved from a position where a trade deal with the US was almost expected to be established quickly, to one where the President Elect doesn’t agree with Brexit and has freely shared his less than favourable opinion of our Prime Minister. In addition with his Irish heritage Joe Biden does not want anything to happen that will have a negative impact on the island of Ireland. All of which, may well be focussing Whitehall’s priorities in terms of trade deals, and if that results in a workable UK/EU trade deal that can be in place for 1st January it would help to reduce the levels of uncertainty amongst our business community, and also help to minimise any short term negative impacts on our built environment.