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This morning, we were proud to hold our first breakfast panel debate at the AluK Design Studio, discussing Brexit and its possible impact on the construction and architecture industry, in association with RIBA Journal.

The debate explored the unique political situation and what it means for the industry; chaired by Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA, the debate heard from three expert panellists, Nick Whitten at Jones Lang LaSalle, Mark Cleverly at Arcadis, and architect Nigel Coates.

From the prospects of the residential and commercial sectors to the importance of European ties in architectural education, the debate was extremely insightful, revealing some interesting questions and thoughts around the future of the industry.

After Matthew opened the debate by asking if the audience believed Brexit had been better or worse than we had anticipated so far, Nick took the stage to explore the residential side of the argument. Stating that this is a political crisis rather than an economic one, Nick pointed out that we are in a far stronger position than we were during the 2008 recession and that with a weaker Pound, there are opportunities for overseas investors. However, he also touched on the dent in consumer confidence but did note that the data we have so far isn’t enough to see a Brexit-related trend in capital or house prices.

Mark then continued the debate from a commercial point of view, reminding the audience that it’s important to maintain a positive outlook while we wait for the political situation to calm down ‒ the new Chancellor’s Autumn Statement will be a key part of this. While investment is looking up, the outlook for commercial development is looking uncertain, with some of Arcadis’ clients already taking ‘a bit of a pause’ or going back to the investment committee stage. But Mark was also keen to stress that this provides opportunities for adding value, such as refurbishment and change of use projects, and placed importance in ensuring commercial doesn’t become a ‘zombie’ sector with a frozen pipeline.

Our final speaker, Nigel, provided an architectural perspective on the debate. As an architect working particularly closely with Italian partners, Nigel emphasised the value of European relationships in the UK’s architecture industry. He highlighted the sharing of ideas and quality of education involved in these close cross-continental ties, pointing out the work of the London School of Architecture and reiterating the idea that London should be one of the global homes of architecture.

During the question and answer session, a few key themes emerged: having a roadmap for Article 50 will help to improve business and consumer confidence; making sure we have an industry voice during negotiations; and building on our own relationships in Europe while we wait for these all-important Brexit decisions.

We’re pleased the breakfast debate went so well ‒ we had a great turnout and we hope our panellists and guests enjoyed it as much as we did.