As the European Union (Withdrawal Bill) was voted through the UK House of Commons on 20 June, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said; "Today has been an important step in delivering the Brexit people voted for, a Brexit that gives Britain a brighter future, a Britain in control of its money, laws and borders."
However, the UK’s approaching exit from the EU has created uncertainty amongst many architecture firms based in the UK with several identifying it is a major concern, particularly when it comes to attracting and retaining staff from outside the UK. The UK’s largest practice, Foster + Partners, has said it would even consider relocating its London HQ if Brexit meant it could no longer attract the world’s best architects. The firm has been actively lobbying the UK government behind the scenes on Brexit ever since the UK population voted to leave the EU.
Foster + Partners currently employs 1,061 staff in the UK including 353 architects. Less than a quarter of the architects based at the firm’s London head office are UK nationals – with around a half from EU countries. A spokesman for the firm stated: ‘We don’t want to leave London, but we – like any business – would have to consider that. If Brexit means we can’t attract world talent then we would have to go to somewhere where we can. The government needs to give us some more clarity on residency, immigration and on the framework for professional services,’ he said.
London based Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners have also expressed concerns about how the UK’s departure from the EU will affect its workforce. The practice said an increasing number of its European workers were applying for British citizenship to avoid being forced to leave.
In a statement the company said: ‘An ongoing lack of clarity regarding the Brexit process has added to the level of uncertainty for architecture both at home and abroad. There is clearly an ongoing process of readjustment and we are already seeing this in terms of our staffing, with a significant portion of our non-UK staff seeking to naturalise and obtain UK passports where possible. We are worried about how Brexit will affect not only our own recruitment and retention of the best architectural talent from across the Eurozone, but also how it will affect UK architecture as a whole.’
We are also concerned about the likelihood of UK architects being able to compete for EU public building commissions in a post-Brexit world.’