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UK seeks post-Brexit access to EIB

The UK is seeking to maintain access to a key source of infrastructure investment post-Brexit, leaked documents have shown.

The leaked version of the Brexit withdrawal agreement states that the UK will seek to retain access to the European Investment Bank, which funds a number of projects across infrastructure and private development.

The draft future declaration references “the United Kingdom’s intention to explore options for a future relationship with the European Investment Bank (EIB) Group”.

The EIB has supplied funding to a range of UK projects, often under private finance initiative (PFI) deals, including a role as joint financial backer of Carillion’s Royal Liverpool Hospital, and providing £107m as one of five backers of the Midland Metropolitan Hospital.

Construction News reported in June that the EIB and the four other backers of the Midland Met were pulling their funding for the project in the wake of Carillion’s collapse

And in September it was revealed that, although the EIB would receive a payment from the trust behind the Royal Liverpool for work already done, it would still be left with a significant shortfall. 

The UK’s withdrawal agreement sets out the aspirations for the future trading arrangement with the EU.

The government aims to have the negotiations over the future partnership resolved before the end of the transition period, which is due to expire in December 2020.

However, the withdrawal agreement is not a binding legal document, so aspects are open to negotiation over the 21-month transition.

Commenting on the EIB plans, Liz Jenkins, partner at law firm Clyde & Co, said: “The mention that the UK will try to retain access to the European Investment Bank will catch the eye of the industry.

“With the Budget announcement about scrapping PFI, this type of funding could be ever more important for getting major projects off the ground in the UK.

“It’s pleasing to see some apparent progress being made but one should bear in mind that it is not legally binding.”

Ms Jenkins added: “Concerns for the construction industry remain as there has been, so far, very little announced that shows any consideration for the skills shortage shock that the industry could face post-Brexit.”

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