The uncertainty that the vote for Brexit unleashed has already caused some building projects to be shelved, and architects are fearful this could be the tip of the iceberg unless confidence is revived.
Five professional bodies representing architects recently met in Belfast, where investment in architecture was already dwindling in the run up to the EU referendum. “Unlike in other parts of the UK, the level of investment in Northern Ireland’s built environment was still significantly below pre-recession levels even before Brexit,” said Paul Crowe, President of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects.
“The modest recovery we were experiencing is now in jeopardy. There are concerns that Brexit might hit Northern Ireland harder than elsewhere in the UK and we believe there is an onus on the UK Government to take account of this as it rolls out measures to mitigate the impact of Brexit,” Crowe continued. “Looking ahead it is essential that some way is found to maintain free movement and free trade across the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.”
Architects are calling on the UK government to protect the free movement of people, goods and services throughout Europe. “There have always been strong connections between the architectural profession in Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom,” said Carole Pollard, President of The Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland.
“That connection has been built on a long tradition of movement of the profession between both jurisdictions and the cyclical nature of the construction industry has ensured a constant flow of architects throughout these islands,” she added. “Free movement of people and services, particularly via the open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, is essential for a healthy and sustainable construction sector.”
RIBA President Jane Duncan said, “As we look outwards to the world, we will continue our work with the UK government to address the challenges and support the opportunities that arise from Brexit, including pressing for continued free movement so vital for architects’ practices in the UK and the EU, and mutual recognition of qualifications.”
Severing EU funds was another concern, especially in areas such as Wales which have been a major beneficiary of EU funding. “The Royal Society of Architects in Wales fully supports the Welsh Government in its demands that Wales should not lose out on projects and funding that would previously have resulted from our position as a region of the EU,” said Robert Firth, President of the Royal Society of Architects in Wales.
“Our Festival of Architecture, celebrating the RIAS’ centenary this year, has reaffirmed that Scottish architecture has been greatly enriched by our close trading and cultural relationships with the UK and Europe,” said Willie Watt, President of RIAS. “We join with our colleagues from throughout the UK and in the Republic of Ireland in seeking to retain and strengthen those ties.”