Construction leaders caution against Brexit

Leading figures from the construction industry have come out in favour of a yes vote, cautioning that that leaving the EU would damage the economy and reduce the talent pool. 

Nick Roberts, chief executive officer, UK & Europe at Atkins said: “We rely heavily on the availability of the best qualified engineers and scientists to support our national, European and international clients. The availability of talent in Europe without restrictions as well as our European client base are important factors of Atkins’ success. We fundamentally believe that it is in Atkins’ best interest that the UK remains in the European Union.” Atkins Chief executive Dr Uwe Krueger was one the 200 business leaders who signed a letter to The Times last month warning of the consequences of the UK’s withdrawal alongside leaders of Arup and Mace.

"We fundamentally believe that it is in Atkins' best interest that the UK remains in the European Union."

- Nick Roberts, UK CEO, Atkins

As a FTSE 200 business, Akins say that it is important that they contribute to the debate. “First and foremost, we consider that this is about Europe’s economy, peace and security,” said Roberts. “These are important to our business, our people and the communities in which we work. If we are to have influence over these important matters, we have to be part of Europe.  Otherwise, we will be an outsider looking in and that is a much harder position from which to influence.

“Atkins will support the UK Government and our clients at events and in communications materials being prepared to support the campaign to keep the UK in the EU. We will not become a pro-active pro-Europe campaigner in our own right, but will participate in joint activities together with other UK-based businesses,” Roberts added.

Alan Brookes, UK CEO at ARCADIS  is also worried about a no vote. He said: “We saw investment decisions in the private and public sector disrupted by the Scottish vote.  If the referendum is a no vote then it will precipitate two years notice of exit, negotiation of type of relationship with the EU and potentially uncertainty for the whole period we negotiate our position.”

Chairman of the Institute of Directors and new chair of ACE’s advisory board, Lady Barbara Judge said: “Our members were always more concerned with securing commitments on reducing business red tape, making sure the Eurozone would not put the UK at a disadvantage as a financial centre, and clear limits on the implications of the phrase “ever closer union” in the EU treaties. 

“We now have a deal and the prime minister secured very worthwhile reforms. When we asked members to give us their instant reaction following the agreement at the EU summit, 60 per cent said that they intended to vote to remain, compared to 31 per cent who said they would vote to leave,” she said.

Stephen Fox, chief executive of BAM Nuttall voiced concerns about movement of labour. “In terms of staying in, our industry, like the farming, aviation and hospitality industries, is very heavily dependent upon the EU transient labour market. Without this we simply could not function.

“I also sense that the UK is seen as a 'safe' place to invest in Europe without being within the Eurozone. This gives us a best of both worlds appeal to global investors, in that we are largely in control of our economy, but are part of Europe. I expect that leaving could undermine this perception and lead to a long term loss of interest in investing in the UK.

"Our industry is very heavilly dependent upon the EU transient labour market. Without this we simply could not function."

- Stephen Fox, chief executive, BAM Nuttall

“To my mind it is simply a matter of are we better off in or out? Since we have been a part of the EU market for around 40 years it is very difficult to make any really meaningful judgement on what life will be like outside. The only certainty is that it will be very uncertain,” said Fox.

Chris Temple, PwC’s UK engineering and construction leader, is concerned about business uncertainty around the outcome of the referendum. “The UK construction sector is undoubtedly facing a number of domestic and external economic challenges, from volatile commodity prices and supply chain costs to the uncertainty around the forthcoming EU Referendum. Many will be hoping that a known outcome on 23 June will go some way towards improving business confidence and generating a more positive growth trajectory in the second half of 2016.”

Infrastructure Intelligence will continue to canvas the industry’s views on the EU issue during what is sure to be an intensive period of campaigning and debate ahead of the referendum on 23 June. ACE’s National Conference on 15 March will also include a debate on the implications for leaving the EU and that promises to be an interesting addition to the conference line-up and not to be missed.

You can book your place at the ACE National Conference here.

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Its always easier to poach other people's talent than train your own. And these large multinationals have gotten used to exploiting the workers and making large profits off depressed wages. Pigs troughing at the EU stalls are hardly going to be pleased if asked to find their own food for a change. If we leave the EU I hope people remember which companies made which noises when it comes to awarding contracts. If your going to play politics, expect to be on the receiving end of political decisions.