Everyone is asking questions about how Britain will look post-Brexit. At Whitescape our biggest questions are about the future of the UK construction industry – and what we need to do to be successful in the new era.
Will construction investment falter?
The construction industry is cyclical – when the economy performs, construction performs. Post-Brexit uncertainty could reduce investment in both the private and the public sector markets. House builders may put off developments until certainty resumes, and the government may hold back on infrastructure projects until our divorce from the EU is final. That could mean a reduction in business for UK construction firms. Companies will benefit from a strong focus on sectors that are most likely to sustain activity levels through any downturn.
Will we have a skills shortage?
Migrant workers account for roughly 12% of the 2.9 million construction sector jobs in the UK, according to government figures. If free movement of labour between the EU and the UK is lost or limited, it could lead to skills shortages within the UK construction industry. However, it gives opportunities to UK workers to fill any gaps, boosting UK employment. Developing our own employees through training and mentoring is already key to Whitescape’s distinctive way of working, and will enable us to mitigate the possible skills shortage issue.
Will building materials costs go up?
A study by the Department for Business Skills and Innovation estimated that 64% of building materials used were imported from the EU. If the UK were no longer beneficiaries of free trade with the EU, these imports would face new tariffs and duties, making them more expensive, with a potential impact on construction companies’ profits. Companies will need to limit the impact of price rises for themselves and our customers, through ever more efficient planning and procurement, and excellent relationships with the supply chain.
Will the industry be free of red tape?
Many operators within the UK construction industry suggest that EU membership causes excessive adherence to official rules and formalities. Depending how deeply ties are cut between the UK and Europe, construction firms may be able to save costs by no longer having to comply with certain regulations. However, the government is likely to retain much of the regulatory framework, particularly in areas such as site safety. Whatever deregulation happens, responsible companies have already embedded Health and Safety as part of their performance criteria, and will not choose to put workers at risk in order to cut costs.
The outcomes of Brexit are not yet known. The UK may still experience free trade with the EU, free movement of labour or neither. Whitescape has plans in place to deal with any potential shocks to the industry. We are keeping a close eye on our supply chains costs, and are currently evolving strategies for all our key sectors. Whitescape is an intelligent construction company, and that intelligent approach will now help us to face the outcomes of Brexit.