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what does brexit MEAN FOR FM?

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Credit: Shutterstock

20 July 2016 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal


In the early hours of Friday 24th June, the results of the EU referendum trickled in. Jenny Watson, chief counting officer for the referendum and chair of the Electoral Commission, announced that 48.1 per cent of people had voted to remain in the European Union and 51.9 per cent had voted to leave. 


There was widespread shock, the pound dropped to a 31-year low, billions of pounds were wiped off markets and there were even rumours of major American banks relocating workers to other European cities. 


Think tank IPPR’s chief economist Catherine Colebrook said: “Markets have responded to the news that the UK is to exit the EU by selling sterling assets, causing the pound to fall. This will be felt in higher costs on the high street in the coming months.” 


She added: “In the weeks and months following this initial financial market reaction, we will be hit by the perfect storm of reduced consumer spending power, a reduction in business investment as businesses put their plans on ice, and the heightened risk of a downturn across Europe.” 


New BIFM chief executive Ray Perry said he ended his first week in post by calling on the government to “lead us through the short-term volatility” caused by the referendum decision to leave the European Union.


Calling the decision “a historic one”, Perry said that “we will not know the full impact or meaning of this for years to come”.


However, Perry, also said: “It does immediately create a period of uncertainty for the UK economy and the facilities management services that supply it.”


“The government and supporting organisations must get to grips with the task swiftly, putting partisan politics aside to lead us through any short-term volatility towards a stronger and more stable position. We need to focus on market confidence and stability.


“The negotiation period, when Article 50 is invoked, provides an opportunity for our members to understand, adjust to and make the most of the new environment that this decision will create.


“Our immediate priority is to canvas the views of our members and the profession in order to understand their position. Doing so will provide us with clear and valid data to be able to respond and support those operating within the sector.”


Peter Cheese, chief executive of professional body the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, prescribed caution. He said: “Now that the British people have had their say on Britain’s future relationship with the EU and voted to leave, it’s important that the government and UK businesses take time to properly assess the long-term impacts of any decisions that they take going forward.


“The impact of a ‘leave’ vote is much bigger than simply changing the political landscape of the UK. It stands to have a significant impact on the world of work and future planning within organisations. We need a broad and thorough consultation between government, organisations and employees across all sectors and representative bodies.”


For most businesses the “immediate impact of this historic decision will be limited as major changes won’t be able to occur for a while”, He said employment law, immigration and the ability of employers to bring the right skills they need into their business were “key themes focused on in the campaign that will potentially be subject to change going forwards, and these things will no doubt be on employers’ minds”.


But he warned that now is not the time for “hasty decisions or knee-jerk reactions from government or employers”. 


Several environmental bodies are calling for the industry to come together to ensure that the green agenda continues to be a priority in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU). Julie Hirigoyen, CEO of the UK Green Building Council (UK GBC), said: “Both economic and political uncertainty will have some people asking whether the green agenda needs to be de-prioritised while business goes into firefighting mode. This must and need not happen. 


“The incentives remain strong for business to address climate change and other urgent sustainability challenges. Arguably now more than ever we need to minimise future risk, reduce costs, add value for clients, generate new commercial opportunities and ensure we have the best people working as productively as possible. A sustainable built environment is fundamental to these objectives.”


Other were more upbeat. The president of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers believes that there will be “life after Brexit”. He said: “We do not anticipate any significant alteration in the very positive engagement we maintain with members across the globe and suggest that the referendum result creates significant opportunities and commitments to increase engagement with regional, national and global interests.” 


Separately, the Local Government Association said councils in England “need a seat at the table” as decisions are made on waste and other legislation, to replace EU laws.