What impact will Brexit bring for your industry?
After years of contentious political debate and upheaval, the UK has finally departed the European Union, making good on the result of the public referendum held in 2016. However, even though Brexit has now gone ahead, much remains undecided in terms of what the future will look like for British business.
With the country remaining under EU regulation during a period of transition until the end of 2020, the British government is currently working to decide the political direction the UK will take as an independent nation from 2021 onwards. Until this happens, companies across all sectors will be watching and waiting to see how these policy decisions might affect conditions within their industries, and across the economy as a whole.
As the countdown towards the end of the year continues, it should be a priority for businesses from all sectors to educate themselves on how they might expect business conditions in the UK to change as a result of Brexit, and to make preparations accordingly. Below, we take a closer look at the anticipated consequences of Brexit within the sectors we serve, based on recent forecasts and predictions.
By planning realistically and proactively, your organisation will be best placed to avoid the potential pitfalls of a post-Brexit future, and make the most of the opportunities it presents.
Agriculture and farming
As a sector with a heavy focus on importing and exporting goods and produce, the agriculture and farming industry is likely to have to make some significant changes to the way it operates in order to avoid the impact of Brexit being a negative one.
Analysis from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has suggested that average farm profitability could drop from £38,000 to £15,000 a year in a worst-case Brexit scenario, due to factors such as labour shortages, a lack of access to overseas workers, and the introduction of new barriers or tariffs on international trade.
In order to avoid these potential negative consequences, the countryside charity CPRE has called on the government to provide tailored support to smaller farms and take more action to improve soils to benefit both farming and the environment, all supported by a policy of long-term investment. Regardless of whether this happens, a greater focus on productivity is likely to be essential for farms to stand out in an increasingly competitive local agriculture landscape.
The construction sector has been at the centre of many Brexit discussions, due to concerns that the industry could be particularly susceptible if Britain’s transition into its post-EU future is handled in a disorderly manner.
Organisations such as Rics have indicated that the sector could see diminishing returns as a result of labour shortages caused by fewer EU applicants for jobs, as well as higher material costs, market uncertainty and project delays. Whether these impacts could be mitigated will depend on the details of the UK’s future trade relationship with the EU, as well as the continuation of infrastructure investment nationwide.
In the meantime, construction firms across the country will need to make sure they are operating as efficiently as possible, and taking steps to maximise their attractiveness to talented workers, in order to put themselves on the best possible footing.
The impact of Brexit on the UK’s defence sector remains largely unclear for the time being, as the EU and UK are still yet to formally agree on how the territories’ joint commitments to cross-continental defence and security projects will be structured going forward.
The Ministry of Defence acknowledged in 2019 that this situation is likely to cause uncertainty for defence and military professionals and their families stationed overseas, whether this be European staff based in the UK or vice-versa. As new policies are created, these individuals will see greater clarity over their right to stay where they are, or their ability to continue to travel freely.
Until these matters are clarified, defence sector employers should look to ensure their staff are comfortably accommodated and that their professional needs are being met, as well as paying close attention to policy developments that may affect them.
Currently, universities across the country plan their accommodation setup around student intake estimates that factor in a certain quantity of overseas students enrolling to join them. Post-Brexit, many of these estimates may need to change.
The expected end of the UK’s participation in the EU’s freedom of movement scheme could potentially make it more difficult for students from Europe to come to the UK to study without needing to deal with complex visa issues. Establishments running EU-funded education schemes, such as Erasmus+, are likely to see broader-ranging impacts than others, and will need to keep track of any political developments that could affect the education of their current students.
Naturally, investment in sufficient accommodation for students should remain a key priority, but it may be necessary to take a flexible approach to planning, based on whether the number of overseas students declines, and whether this drop is mitigated by a rise in British student intake.
Events and Hospitality
Views on Brexit in the events planning and hospitality sectors have been mixed, with many expressing concerns that the UK’s EU departure could result in workforce issues, unfavourable currency trends and administrative hurdles that may make it harder to attract tourism and stage international events in Britain.
A survey carried out by the Hotel Booking Agents Association in June 2019 revealed that 78% of the sector believed Brexit had slightly affected their business, up from 36% the previous year, with many seeing delays in commitments of new projects or contracts. However, many organisations are seeking to move on as constructively as possible, and are hoping that the finalisation of Brexit will bring greater certainty over future trading conditions.
In order to make the best of the situation, the events sector will need to find ways to maintain strong relationships with European clients, while ensuring they have resources and accommodation to flexibly cater to the needs of any new international customers they may be able to attract after Brexit. In particular, an uptick in visitors attracted by the weakening value of the pound may represent a significant opportunity.
The security sector is one of many service-based industries that are keenly following all of the Brexit-related developments for signs of a potential impact. Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows that the UK is the world’s second largest net exporter of services, a status that could be challenged if Britain suddenly becomes subject to economic barriers and tariffs on international trade.
It is estimated that of the more than 371,000 licences issued by the Security Industry Authority (SIA), around 15,000 belong to EU nationals, with many of these being registered in London. The end to freedom of movement may limit access to this key source of personnel, and could even result in many of these professionals leaving the UK, creating a newfound focus on local recruitment.
As such, security firms are likely to be placing much greater focus on domestic hiring policies and UK clientele in the years after Brexit, with the most successful firms being those that are able to make this transition most effectively.
Sports and leisure
Given the sports and leisure sector’s traditional reliance on free movement of overseas professionals, coaches and players, the prospect of a hard or disorderly Brexit is likely to be seen as a cause for concern.
Indeed, many are already wondering whether leaving the EU will impact the success of the UK’s sporting clubs and make Britain less attractive as a venue for international events, while undermining the value of UK-EU trade in sporting goods and services - currently estimated to be worth £2 billion and £1 billion, respectively.
As such, the Sport & Recreation Alliance is calling on the government to adopt flexible immigration policies, sports-specific skills promotion schemes and a programme of ongoing grassroots investment in the sector to ensure that British sports and leisure continue to thrive. Regardless of whether this happens, organisations in this sector will need to firm up their infrastructure to bolster their resilience and capabilities for future growth.
Flexible infrastructure investments to improve your Brexit preparation
No matter what the eventual outcome of Brexit may be for your sector, it is essential for businesses across the country to plan flexibly enough for the coming years to ensure they are ready for both the best and worst-case scenarios.
Portable site accommodation could be one useful means of doing this. Rather than making binding investments in permanent infrastructure, hiring modular site sleepers and welfare units can provide you with a means of expanding your on-site accommodation on a temporary basis, allowing you to make adjustments to your facilities as business conditions demand.
Nobody can accurately forecast the future of Brexit, but by making full use of the range of portable cabins that Bunkabin has to offer, you can make sure you are properly prepared for all eventualities.