23 Jul 2018
Policy area: BPF
Patrick Brown, Head of Insights & EU Engagement, British Property Federation:
“We welcome the Brexit White Paper for the clarity it offers on the issues covered. The Government has had an unenviable task in satisfying an array of demands, but the key test will be how it is received by the lead negotiators for the EU institutions and the other member states. The tone and general approach is right, nevertheless there remain gaps in the detail that give us cause for concern given the time left on the clock for the Article 50 process.
“One of the main features is a free trade area for goods, and this offers some benefits for real estate in terms of industrial occupiers, retailers who transport goods to and from the continent and in respect of building materials in the construction supply chain. Yet, it is often difficult to separate trade in goods from trade in services – such as is the case with maintenance contracts and guarantees – and there is no real clarity in the White Paper as to how such blended trade will be treated. Further, the arrangements for customs do not appear to have settled some of the concerns expressed around the time of the last Customs White Paper concerning the Irish border and whether viable technological solutions exist to implement it.
“Other good news for our industry includes the White Paper’s proposal that regulation around environmental and employment policy remains the same, enhancing the existing protections under the EU Withdrawal Act 2018, cemented by the aspirations in the 25 Year Environmental Strategy and Clean Growth Strategy. This means Brexit is unlikely to lead to a regulatory bonfire.
“The White Paper, however, offers what seems to be a precarious solution for financial services, as from 2021 it won’t cover the full array of financial services and can be withdrawn by the EU with little warning. This is not an adequate solution, and the sector requires a much stronger commitment to ensuring both short and longer-term certainty as soon as possible.
“There is also still uncertainty around immigration beyond the Transitional Period. The precise details of the Immigration Bill will depend on the Migration Advisory Committee Report, due for publication in September, and to which we have contributed evidence. While there is a clear aspiration to make provision for the highly skilled and students who wish to study here, the absence of continued access to construction site workers from the continent suggests greater pressure on the success of measures listed in the Construction Sector Deal to tackle the skills gap.”