Architects are Building a Case for a Better Brexit

Architects are Building a Case for a Better Brexit

14th January 2019

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has called on the UK government to make some “drastic” reforms to Britain’s post-Brexit immigration system, claiming that access to overseas talent is essential for success in future.  RIBA has made 18 separate recommendations in its 30 page report, Powered by People, in a bid to mitigate the detrimental effects Brexit is likely to have on the already serious skills shortage faced by the construction industry in 21st Century Britain.

According to RIBA research, almost half of EU architects living in the UK have considered relocating overseas since the Referendum in June, 2016 and last year saw a decrease in EU architects registering in the UK.  More than three quarters of the international architects working in the UK are from European Union countries and a quarter of the whole workforce were born overseas.  Without these foreign workers, the £4.8 billion sector and its contribution to the UK economy would be in danger.

According to RIBA, architecture is a sector that thrives on diversity and benefits from the different way so working, experience and backgrounds that these overseas workers bring to the table.  According to RIBA’s chief executive, Alan Vallance, although the government has clearly stated that it wants UK businesses to expand overseas, ministers need to ensure the conditions that allows them to do so. 

The government’s new “exceptional talent” visa which was announced in December will allow “outstandingly talented” architects to come to the UK free from the restrictions of the current work visa system.  However, the new immigration rules represents a disaster for the architectural community as the exceptional talent visas would apply to a limited number of people, leaving the industry facing a serious talent gap and risking cutting the UK off from the rest of the world.  This type of insularity would be detrimental to Britain in so many ways, economically and socially.

Politicians are being advised to keep an open mind about the benefits brought to British society by migration – after all, we are a multi-cultural society and have benefitted from influxes of migrants so many times in the past.  This is part of what has made Britain great and we need to ensure that this continues, not just in the construction and architecture sectors, but across all sectors. 

The Tier 1 (exceptional talent) visas available are a step in the right direction, but not a big enough step to ensure success.  The Tier 2 visas (which are available for those who have been offered a skilled job in the UK) are available in limited numbers and RIBA wants them to be made more widely available. 

With Brexit fast approaching and no sign of a deal in sight so far, Brexit is continuing to cause concerns for business owners and industry leaders across all sectors, none more so than construction which traditionally relies heavily on labour from overseas.  Fasten your seatbelts, folks, as we race towards Brexit, it’s sure to be a bumpy ride for the last few miles.