‘Brexit’ – thoughts from the construction industry

‘Brexit’ – thoughts from the construction industry

The results are in from Construction Marketing Experts’ latest survey of those in construction, which this time tackles the issue of the EU Referendum.

On 23rd June, the UK will settle the much debated question: should Great Britain remain within the European Union? Or leave and go it alone?

Construction Marketing Experts recently sent out an email asking those in the industry to have their say and the results are now in:

59.4% think it’s best for the construction sector if we remain in the EU, with 40.6% voting to leave.

Interestingly, this vote seems to coincide with the current opinion polls as, in an analysis for the Telegraph, political strategist Sir Lynton Crosby suggests the Remain campaign has persuaded more voters of the case for staying in the EU. This was evidenced by a vote where 52% wanted to remain, 43% said they would opt to leave and 5% didn’t know.

While both polls are leaning towards Britain remaining in the EU, it is clear to see that there is a divide in opinion within the construction sector. Will leaving the EU cause too much of strain on construction firms when acquiring skilled and unskilled labour? Or will an end to the red tape and regulation from Brussels mean that the British construction industry is better off out of the EU?

Let’s examine what everyone has had to say, starting with those who voted to remain.


One of the first commenters said that: “Staying in the EU will enable us to continue to supply our products into Europe without more interference than there already is.”

Another popular view is that remaining in the EU is a safer choice. This is echoed by the head of a London-based construction business who said: “It’s madness to leave a huge business club like the EU in favour of an old-fashioned isolationist view of the UK as a stand-alone mini US or maxi Switzerland. Besides which the cost of exit has simply not been calculated at all.”

He then highlighted the direct impact that leaving the EU can have on a construction company, adding: “We are currently bidding for an EU contract that will only be awarded after June. I don’t know if we will be automatically disqualified on Brexit!”

This confusion was addressed by a senior estimator at a Cambridge firm, who commented: “Nobody really knows the implications at present; the general person does not understand the pro’s and con’s at this stage.”

Finally, comments such as the following showed that there is uncertainty regarding the future of the markets. “It’s better for construction if we stay in the EU. We are seeing even now disruption to construction investment merely due to the fact of the vote. This market uncertainty will continue for a period whatever the result on June 23rd and this will continue to impact negatively upon construction investment. I believe that market confidence will take longer to return and construction investment will suffer a longer lasting negative impact if we decide to leave the EU.”


A firm from Hull was quick to dispel fears regarding labour, offering a solution. It said: “Rather than importing skilled construction (and unskilled) from the EU it would be more incumbent upon contractors to ensure a steady chain of home-grown apprentices happens. Companies should be funding training without the need for additional support from the government as it is in their own interests. Forget shareholders for a moment and look at the bigger picture.”

A few patriotic comments included a Quantity Surveyor who wanted to leave the EU so that “We retake control of our own destiny, make our own laws, control our borders and eradicate the stupid bureaucracy.” While another comment from an architect at a Burford firm claimed: “The EU administration is costing our clients & our nation a fortune on irrelevancies.”

A comment from one ‘leave’ voter was: “I have not heard anything to convince me that it is better to stay in.” while another from a Director of a construction firm outlined his reasons to leave, saying: “I believe that our country would be financially stronger after the initial shock waves. If the pound becomes a little weaker for a while then it will make our imports more expensive and exports more attractive – nothing wrong with that. We would almost certainly negotiate a tariff free trade deal with Europe because we buy a lot more than we sell.”

Will Brexit happen?

While the poll showed that nearly 60% of you would be set to vote to remain on behalf of the construction industry, it is difficult to say whether that will reflect the outcome on 23rd June. In fact, a survey by Smith & Williamson at the start of 2016 found that only 15% of construction executives favoured a UK exit from the European Union, so perhaps the campaign to leave is actually gathering momentum, rather than the other way around as political strategist Sir Lynton Crosby suggested.

Related post:

NBG members’ view on EU membership

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