World Architecture News held a briefing on 26 May at Grimshaw Architects’ London office on the UK European Union Referendum which takes place on 23 June. UK citizens are being given a straight IN/OUT choice over remaining in the European Union, with the WAN Event being held as part of our ongoing partnership with UK Construction Week. Several key topics that will undoubtedly affect the architecture and construction industries if the UK were leave the European Union were discussed by a panel of experts. This was followed by a lively Q & A session with the audience of architectural professions.
The event was chaired by Brian Kilkelly, Development Lead – Climate-KIC and Founder, World Cities Network and the panel included;
Mark Middleton, Managing Partner, London office, Grimshaw
David Cash, Chairman, BDP
Brian Berry, Chief Executive, Federation of Master Builders
Paul Scully, MP for Sutton and Cheam
Cezary Bednarski, Architect, Studio Bednarski
The results of an EU-Referendum Survey which was completed by over 3200 architects and construction professionals was also discussed by the panel and shared with the audience. Commenting on the event Brian Kilkelly said: “This is an incredibly important debate. We will all be better informed and able to make a clear decision as a result of this discussion.”
Brian Berry who is the Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders favoured remaining part of the EU. “We represent a large number of small local builders. Over half say they need more information. I believe that if we leave the EU investment will decline and the economy will get a huge economic shock.”
Cezary Bednarski commented: “I first came to the UK in 1981 and have been here for 35 years. One thing is clear the UK needs more affordable housing. This will be more difficult to achieve outside the EU.”
Paul Scully favoured leaving the EU, saying: “Trying to get 28 member states to agree is incredibly difficult. We need to be nimble as a country and as small businesses.” Paul also felt that trade with the wider world and the UK’s sovereignty were key issues that were best safeguarded if the UK exits the EU.
David Cash was another member of the panel who was keen to remain within the Union: “We need to be part of a significant body. London is a top three world city and is seen by many as the capital of Europe.” However, he also recognised the needs of the regions saying: “We need to invest in the north as well. The UK northern powerhouse is a valuable development and has the productivity of a small European nation.”
Mark Middleton also saw the UK’s natural home as part of the EU: “We are a nation of explorers, emotionally I say ‘leave’ but my head says ‘stay’. If we leave the UK economy will be on pause for five to six years.”
The panel were then asked for a few final remarks on the EU IN/OUT debate.
Brian Berry felt that we were better working together and better talking, working and sharing ideas. Both Cezary Bednarski and David Cash emphasised what a huge step it would be to move out of the current European Union stating that it was a one way move with little room to return. David also felt that it could mark the end of the British Union and the European Union as a whole. It was also generally noted that the close European Union had contributed to 70 years of peace after two world wars in the first half of the 20th century.
However, Paul Scully advised caution when it came to Government scare stories saying: “Don’t buy scary scenarios from the government,” while Mark Middleton felt that there was quite simply too much to risk if we left the EU. Finally the gathered audience of architectural professionals were asked to express their opinions on the EU debate with a show of hands. The final outcome echoed the opinions of many of the panellists and was overwhelmingly in favour of staying in Europe.
Nathan Garnett, Event Director for UK Construction Week, commented: “The EU referendum survey has been a real eye-opener and clearly shows that the vote will be very close within the construction industry. Indeed, across every profession the split of opinion has been relatively equal – only architects showed a clear majority with 71 per cent in favour of staying in the EU. Whichever way the vote goes on the 23rd of June it’s clear to see that there will be a lot of people within the industry who will be nervous of what is to come. UK Construction Week will be a great opportunity for the sector to come together and drive business forward, discuss the key issues and challenges facing the industry and build a stronger future for everyone employed in or impacted by the sector.”
Michael Hammond, Founder and Editor in Chief of World Architecture News, remarked: “The debate highlighted a number of issues, one being how to find solid information on which to make this incredibly important decision. No one would dream of designing a construction project with such flimsy and conflicting data. A division also appeared between head and heart votes with many delegates confessing to having two views on the vote. For me, the elephant in the room was simply, ‘where are the facts?’ – we need more sessions like this to understand the real issues.”
Now all that remains to be seen is how the British public will vote on 23rd June.