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Risk of invalid contracts looms post-Brexit

Just a year ago, the CITB estimated that the industry would grow 2.5 per cent each year between now and 2021, but that has been revised down to just 1.7 per cent.

This follows slow progress on Britain’s negotiations over its relationship with the European single market – and might prompt firms to wonder how best to prepare for the uncertain times ahead.

The mood is one of very cautious optimism, with planned mega-projects such as High Speed 2 and Hinkley Point C still on course, and infrastructure work generally expected to make up 45 per cent of all construction growth over the next five years.

Continued job creation is expected, with around 180,000 new construction jobs predicted, and the government is making the right noises about providing support for industry. But even the CITB has admitted that the unknowns of life after Brexit are casting a shadow over the future.

Preparing for the unknown

Firms can save money through careful contract management and accurate record keeping in both good times and bad.

Right now, there has never been a more important time for companies to carry out a contract ‘health check’, to ensure that whatever Brexit brings in terms of unexpected consequences, they are as prepared as they possibly can be.

Changes in statute introduced as part of the Brexit process could invalidate certain contractual agreements, and our advice is to identify any such agreements early and ensure the potential changes are accounted for.

“Changes in statute could invalidate certain contractual agreements; identify any such agreements early and ensure potential changes are accounted for”

By scenario-testing any potential changes in statute, it is possible for firms to anticipate the ways in which future commitments and liabilities might shift, and ensure none of the outcomes pose a threat to the baseline cost, scope, risk and schedule of any contractual matters.

Some of this scenario testing will be best done without the involvement of external clients and contractors, but in some cases existing relationships might need to be futureproofed by the creation of pre-agreements with third parties to ensure contractual obligations are met – regardless of any changes in the law resulting from the Brexit process.

Best practice makes perfect

The creation of a risk register is something we advise our clients on whenever they commence new projects.

Brexit-specific risks can be assessed and grouped together on a company-wide risk register to ensure all key staff are aware of the impact statute changes may have on their work.

During a time of change, the record keeping of any construction firm becomes paramount to the successful delivery of large-scale projects. Brexit threatens to add a layer of complexity to contractual issues during the next few years, and the best insurance you can have against potential disputes and claims is comprehensive, accurate records.

Taking a conscientious approach to record-keeping is something every company can do to protect itself against new legal scenarios in post-EU Britain.

Your accurate records, along with your carefully researched risk register, can form part of an agile strategy to navigate any changes over the next few years.

Joseph Bond is managing director of Kenzie Group

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