Expert gives verdict on projects like Bristol Rovers and UWE's stadium following Brexit

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A leading industry lawyer believes that Brexit is unlikely to impact on-going small to medium-sized construction projects across the United Kingdom.

A narrow majority of the public last week voted for Britain to come out of the European Union, which has served to heighten uncertainty in industry across the nation and raised questions over how the decision may affect Bristol Rovers‘ current plans to build a new stadium.

Owner Wael Al-Qadi last week reassured supporters on twitter that Brexit would mean “no change” to an on-going bid to build the facility on land owned by the University of West England, which was estimated to cost £40million when first proposed in 2011.

Read more: No agreement between Bristol Rovers and UWE over £40 million stadium made yet

The Jordanian owner, who re-affirmed his commitment to housing the club in a new stadium on day one of his takeover in February, added in a series of tweets that the result of the referendum only served to “reinforce the need to work on strengthening infrastructure and academy as per our vision”.

In construction, a pre-referendum survey by Building magazine found that two-thirds of construction firms polled were in favour of staying in the EU due to fears over how Brexit might affect the cost and availability of labour, the ability to finance projects, and the costs associated with materials resulting from the possibility of a weaker pound.

The survey went on to suggest that half of the firms who wanted to remain within the EU believed that cost of labour would be driven up by 55 per cent if free movement of EU nationals between member states is abolished.

The same poll sample also feared that foreign investment to finance construction projects in the UK could drop by 60 per cent, while a weaker pound may see material costs increase by 55 per cent.

Britain’s departure from the EU is expected to take over two years, and leading construction, engineering and manufacturing lawyer Charlotte Waters believes it should be “business as usual” for projects that are already in the pipeline and scheduled to be completed by the time the exit is officially completed.

Read more: Bristol Rovers: UWE Stadium – How much bang do you get for your £40 million buck?

“For the short-term, its business as usual for existing or on-going medium sized projects,” said Ms Waters, who is a partner at London-based construction law firm Fisher Scoggins Waters. “Until the industry knows whether the UK will be part of the European Free Trade Association or whether individual bilateral trade agreements will be entered into, there are too many unknowns to assess the possible impact on the industry.

“What Britain does next and what those tasked with negotiating the exit will determine the ability of the industry to source goods and services from the EU, obtain project finance from foreign investors, and whether or not the essential free movement of skilled labour will still be available.

“I certainly do not think projects should be held up as a result of last week’s referendum. There is no change at the moment and I see no immediate reason why those involved in small to medium-sized projects should not continue with their plans.”

Read Charlotte Waters’ blog on the post-referendum future for the construction, engineering and manufacturing industries

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