Is the industry Brexit ready?

Brexit is happening and businesses need to get used to it fast and take the necessary steps to ensure that they are prepared for a new political and commercial reality, says Nelson Ogunshakin.

As the clocks continue to count down on the time the UK has left in the EU, business leaders in all industries must look to the future and be prepared. There can no longer be a debate about whether Brexit should or should not happen. It is happening and the concern of all businesses must be making themselves ‘Brexit ready’.

Historically, as an industry we have depended on Europe. With the uncertainty of what it means to leave, those of us representing the industry have been vying for government consideration and action. Action to ensure that initiatives are put in place now for future commercial viability of those UK firms working in infrastructure.

We have not, as a country, proactively played to our strength in leveraging up to offer our collective capability in planning, development, financing, execution and operation of major infrastructure services to other countries. 

Successfully we have delivered major iconic projects such as London 2012, Crossrail, Heathrow T5, The Shard, major hospitals, education facilities and more, to the envy of the world. However, we have historically failed to leverage on such success. 

The UK infrastructure sector has always been at the vanguard of progressive change on planning, financing, procurement, operations and maintenance of major infrastructure investment assets. The combination of Crossrail with London Underground operational capabilities is a classic model that could be exported to a number of emerging countries. Such a holistic infrastructure investment delivery solution approach could enhance economic transformation and be a game changer for the recipient country. 

This July the government launched an initiative called Infrastructure Exports: UK (IE:UK), a collaboration with 17 leading UK firms to help UK companies to secure major international contracts. Through initiatives like this, we as an industry must shape a vehicle through which we are able to promote our services around the world. 

Such efforts must be supported by the industry and all firms must engage now to change the dynamics of our industry to best achieve success in 2019 and beyond.

Having worked historically with UKTI to improve industry input into government initiatives and continued with the Trade Challenge partnership with the Department for International Trade, ACE will continue to work to ensure the voice of the industry is heard. 

It will take more support and action such as this from government, as well as true engagement of businesses now, to ensure that by 2019 our industry has a commercially viable future post-Brexit.

Dr Nelson Ogunshakin OBE is the chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering.