The event, organised by consultants Allsop in partnership with charity LandAid and trade magazine Estates Gazette, focused on the impact ‘Brexit’ would have on property. An initial poll of attendees found 66 per cent favouring membership of the European Union, compared to 34 per cent wanting to leave.
However, after hearing the panellists’ arguments the divide narrowed, with the concluding vote seeing 43 per cent backing ‘Brexit’ – a nine per cent swing towards the Leave camp.
Estates Gazette editor Damian Wild chaired the discussions. Economist Patrick Minford, Conservative MP James Cleverly and Quidnet Capital partner Richard Tice, co-founder of Leave.eu, made the case for quitting the EU. Property analyst Robert Fowlds, Labour MP Emma Reynolds and Charles Gallagher, executive chairman of developer Abbey, outlined the reasons to stay in.
Tice claimed Britain had the “most liquid, transparent property market in the world” and ‘Brexit’ would leave this unchanged, and said the EU referendum was “bigger than the fees of a few investment agents”.
Conversely, Gallagher, a former president of the UK Home Builders Federation, warned that leaving the EU would have a “significant impact” on the house building industry. He said that leaving would worsen a labour shortage in the construction industry, and raised the spectre of capital controls should Britain vote out.
Fowlds, while critical of Remain campaign’s tactics, urged the focus to be on improving the EU’s “efficiency”, and said while ‘Brexit’ may see a devaluation of the pound; the cost of capital would go up, harming investors and developers.
Emma Reynolds, shadow housing minister under Ed Miliband, condemned the “scaremongering” of ‘Brexit’ proponents, and stated EU membership gave the property industry the certainty it needed.
Scott Tyler, Senior Partner at Allsop LLP, said, “Continued membership of the European Union is undoubtedly the biggest question facing the property industry, and while the majority of businesses support staying in, there is clearly appetite for ‘Brexit’ in certain quarters, and the right arguments could sway those who are still undecided.”