The construction industry, like many others, is waiting with baited breath for the outcome of the EU referendum, especially with recent news highlighting a slowdown in output in the build-up to 23 June.
There are certainly strong arguments for both sides, but sentiment among larger developers and construction firms is to remain within the EU.
The referendum offers opportunity either way for the industry, whether part of the EU or outside it.
Short term, there is likely to be uncertainty. However, there are issues the industry needs to address, and a jolt like leaving the EU could bring about action in these areas.
The Collaboration for Change report published last year highlighted a range of issues and opportunities to explore; can we sufficiently begin to address these while in the comfort zone of the EU?
As the make-up of UK construction firms is 90-95 per cent small businesses, it is worth considering whether the fragmentation of the industry and view of smaller firms are shared by larger firms and developers.
“The referendum offers opportunity either way for the industry”
If we move past the scaremongering of the referendum campaigns and bring it down to personal and individual viewpoints, the industry potentially plays a pivotal role in determining the outcome on 23 June.
The use of foreign labour – particularly in the construction industry – is a central issue within the referendum debate.
Larger developers have utilised foreign labour to maximum benefit and warn of the implications of Brexit – in particular, the impact on labour shortages.
But does remaining in the EU hinder the progress and opportunity of jobseekers in this country when Europe as a whole has limited options for those seeking opportunities in construction?
An exit could possibly place greater emphasis on the industry and government delivering more opportunities for school-leavers, apprenticeships and alternatives, being free of the EU.
“Immigration is good for the country and the industry”
Immigration is good for the country and the industry, but a balanced, fairer system is needed and comparisons with Australia’s policy seem reasonable.
Working in an academic environment in London, the cosmopolitan mix of attitudes and cultures coming together emphasises the global reach our industry has.
We need to be inclusive, but we also need to ensure adequate provision and opportunity is available for generations growing up in the UK, which can best serve the future of our industry.
Leon Crascall is a senior lecturer in the department of architecture and the built environment at the University of Westminster