Cause for cautious optimism?
As millions of people in the UK brace themselves and begin Lockdown V3, the construction industry nevertheless has perhaps two causes for cautious optimism.
First, the confirmation that construction sites can remain open amid this latest lockdown (see the latest government guidance here), enabling businesses to continue to provide critical infrastructure services and provide vital support to the UK economy – a much-needed tonic in the current climate.
Secondly, and perhaps most reassuringly in the short term, the UK eventually managed to reach a Brexit trade agreement with the EU on 24 December 2020. You may have seen our previous update in December (available here) which discussed some of the difficulties a no-deal Brexit could bring. It appears to be generally accepted across the industry that the deal, whilst not perfect, is certainly preferable to that no-deal scenario. In particular, it was critical to ensure a free trade agreement was put in place to reduce trade disruption and prevent the substantial cost increases associated with imposing duties and tariffs. Whilst companies importing or exporting construction products to and from the EU will still face additional checks and administration issues at the border, many of which may add cost in themselves, further mass disruption at the ports appears to have thankfully been avoided. The Federation of Master Builders chief executive Brain Berry has largely welcomed the agreement but echoes the general consensus in saying that it “will have come too late for many already feeling the effects of prolonged indecision”.
Indeed, it is likely that many of the effects of both COVID-19 and Brexit still remain to be seen, but it is hoped the industry can soon get back on track and maybe even build better, and greener, than before. Optimists, Sarah and Lorna are both back to work with a bang this New Year and would love to hear from you about your plans for 2021. Please do get in touch.
This update is for general purposes and guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should seek legal advice before relying on its content. This update relates to the prevailing circumstances at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments. If you have general queries about our updates, please email: email@example.com