National Federation of Builders urges UK Government to make Brexit work for SMEs

Richard Beresford

With fewer than 300 days until the UK officially leaves the EU and three weeks until the June European Council summit, the National Federation of Builders (NFB) says it is concerned that the Government has not set out in greater detail its vision of the future relationship between the UK and the EU after March 2019.

The Government has today published a technical note on the temporary customs arrangements, which will determine the UK’s negotiating position at the European Council Summit on 28 June.

The note states that the Government intends the backstop solution on the Irish border, agreed in December 2017 to fully align Northern Ireland with EU rules and avoid a hard border, to be time-limited and expire on 31 December 2021.

This development is likely to clash with the EU’s stance on the issue, aimed at making the backstop a more permanent solution in an effort to safeguard the Good Friday Agreement.

Continuous disagreement over the future direction of Brexit among backbench MPs and cabinet ministers in Government has created a degree of uncertainty, which is harmful for businesses across the UK construction industry.

The NFB is calling for the Government to work towards reassuring construction SMEs and regional contractors by pushing for a Brexit that enables growth and prosperity.

Figures from the Construction Trade Survey for Q1 of 2018, which the NFB contributed to, shows that output has decreased from £39.3 billion in Q1 of 2017 to £38.2 billion in Q1 of 2018, and that 87 per cent of contractors reported increasing material costs throughout the first three months of 2018. This has not been helped by the depreciating pound sterling which has continued to contribute to rising material costs for contractors.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said: “Currently 77 per cent of products consumed in UK construction are already made in the UK, with some of our most exported products also being the most imported. Therefore, it is crucial that we invest in the capacity of those industries.

“MPs and cabinet ministers need to stop fighting the EU referendum and come together to work out a cross-party approach to Brexit. SMEs and regional contractors across the construction industry need consistency and certainty if they are to grow and succeed after we leave the EU.”

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