1st July Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Britain’s decision to leave the EU is already the most talked about subject of the year, and it’s only been one week since the news broke, but who can blame us, it’s going to change our future, whether it be for good or bad.

I understand the fear of uncertainty has taken over, but for our industry it’s important we stay positive. We’ve faced many challenges over recent years, granted this is probably the biggest one to date, but it’s just another challenge for us to overcome together, and I have faith that we will do just that. For me, Brexit is more of an opportunity than a problem for construction.

There’s nothing to fear just yet. It’s going to take several years before the implications of leaving the EU are clear. What will affect us immediately is reluctance from the government to give the go-ahead on major infrastructure projects, so for now we’re going to have to be patient and accept that stalled projects aren’t going to be picked up any time soon. But it would be silly for us to jump straight into new projects during this period of uncertainty, we need to ensure we have stability now, to have a successful outcome in the long term when changes take place.

Another thing that could be affected is the construction of new homes, with Brexit having mixed effects for the home building industry. A huge benefit will be the removal of red tape from EU regulation which is often the reason for hold ups, which will please many new home builders. I feel like there should be a but or the opposite side of the coin here, maybe it’s just me?

For decades the industry has relied on migrant workers from Europe, and if we are to meet the new homes objectives, then the government need to ensure that the new immigration system can contribute to the needs of the industry.

However, this could be the push the industry has needed to train more construction apprentices. It’s time to invest in our home-grown talent, rather than heavily relying on migrant workers from Europe, especially given that nobody knows what position we’ll be in a few months/years down the line.

Although we’ve lost our place inside the EU, there’s nothing stopping us from working together. The industry is largely dependent on EU companies in Ireland, France, Germany and Spain, and although we have asked for freedom from the EU in many areas, there’s no reason for us to be isolated, as both individuals and as a nation, we work better together.

One thing that is certain is that we’re going to face a number of challenges as the impact of Brexit unfolds, and although we’re uncertain of the outcome, the best way to tackle them is by working together – let’s build bridges, not walls!