ROUNDTABLE The UK decided to quit the European Union (EU) and construction output reportedly slumped to a seven-year-low. But is it all bad news for construction firms? We ask our panel of experts what changes they have seen since June 23 and what actions they are taking to minimise the impact of Brexit Jacqueline O’Donovan is the managing director of O’Donovan Waste Disposal Mike Banton is the managing director of residential construction and interior specialists Artez Ltd Jacqueline O’Donovan “It’s only been a few weeks since the referendum, but we’ve noticed the Brexit result making a difference already. “Since June 23 I know of one client that has had two major projects cancelled, and we’ve also seen a difference in our day-to-day work levels. “Confirmation that we’ve left the EU could take another two years, which is too long to allow the current uncertainty to continue. There are huge areas of vagueness as we try to figure out what the decision means for our industry – especially as it transpires that chief Brexiteers didn’t seem to have any plan in place for what to do next. “The decisions and plans that will take us through the process need to be clarified sooner rather than later, as continual ambiguity would be detrimental to the construction sector and, more widely, could ultimately push the economy back into recession. “It’s a welcome and positive development that Theresa May has so swiftly taken the helm and appointed a secretary of state for exiting the EU, so hopefully the uncertainty surrounding Brexit will now reduce. “With the limited information we have at the moment about how the result is going to be implemented, what negotiations will be made and how our www.builderandengineer.6 co.uk exit will look, it’s difficult to know how to safeguard against problems in the construction sector that could stem from the vote. “In the meantime, we’re adopting a ‘business as usual’ approach whilst keeping a watchful eye and hoping for more vital stability as soon as possible.” Mike Banton “We haven’t noticed any immediate changes to the business yet, however we’re conscious that there could be a huge knock-on effect imminently. As a result, it’s likely that we’ll be seeing a more riskaverse approach across the sector. “We’re very aware that some of those in the property industry have recently included Brexit clauses in contracts and offers on land that allow the buyer to withdraw in the result of a majority leave vote, so if investors do decide to pull out it will of course create a chain reaction across the industry from contractors to developers and architects. “Previous projects we’ve worked on, such as the Bunker Building in Liverpool, have been funded by the ERDF. We are not currently working on any contracts with ERDF funding, however, those that have secured this type of funding are of course very uncertain about the implications. “Our order book is stronger than ever but next year things may be very different. Luckily, our business model is designed to be flexible so we can react quickly if we need to. We’ve always been careful to factor in a certain amount of unexpected variations that can affect contracts, so we’re confident that our transparent way of working and steady pricing will enable us to ride out the storm.” Rory O’Connor “Everyone was shocked by the referendum result and there was an initial knee-jerk reaction from a lot of people, mainly market speculators. “However, we’re beginning to see the calm following the storm and we can now take a more considered view on how Brexit will affect the construction and property industries. “Pre-referendum, we witnessed sluggishness in the sector because of a sea of uncertainty, but now that a decision has been made, we can start to see the shape of what lies ahead in our ‘post-Brexit’ era. “The speedy appointment of our new prime minister and her cabinet has shown the world that we are getting down to business and plotting a strategic course through the new economic landscape. “We’re more resilient and stronger than in 2008, but we need to be sharper, more efficient and more productive to trade effectively with Europe, the G8 and G20 nations.
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