Major building sector unfazed by Brexit

Published:  06 October, 2016


The building-services-engineering sector, which makes up 40% of the UK construction and maintenance industry, believes it will weather the outcome of Brexit over the next few years — according to a major survey from the Electrical Contractors’ Association, the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and Scotland’s trade association for the electrical industry SELECT. Almost half of survey respondents (46%) believe Brexit will have a positive effect on their company in just five years’ time, with 19% saying it will have a negative impact. 23% said it will have no discernable impact.

However, the largest contractors in the survey, with over £20 million turnover, are slightly less optimistic about the short-term business prospects than smaller contractors.

The sector puts maintaining access to the EU ‘single market’ at the top of its list of Brexit aspirations, closely followed by more control of employment law and the need to negotiate non-EU trade deals. Despite the general positivity about Brexit, 47% of respondents say they believe the cost of materials will rise as a result, while only 22% do not think Brexit will cause this to happen.

Reflecting a general tendency to use skilled UK rather than EU workers, the vast majority (92%) of respondents say they do not rely on EU migrant workers’, and only 25% agree that Brexit would worsen the shortage of qualified workers. Some 71% of the largest contractors (over £20 million turnover) report they did not rely on EU workers, indicating more reliance than the average for the sector.

BESA chief executive Paul McLaughlin said, ‘Our survey clearly shows that many contractors are conditionally optimistic in the wake of the Brexit vote. In fact, putting these findings alongside the brighter-than-expected data for the UK economy as a whole gives us a much more upbeat feel than could reasonably have been predicted back in June.

‘The survey provides extremely valuable feedback about what matters most to contractors as the UK sets about negotiating a new relationship with Europe. As a result, we will draw up an action plan for the building-engineering-services sector to focus our lobbying efforts in the coming months.’

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