Construction organisations welcome Brexit trade deal

The UK and the European Union have agreed a wide-ranging free trade agreement, avoiding the risks associated with a no-deal and delivering continuity in cost and availability of construction products and materials.

The deal will mean market access across the English Channel, with no tariffs, quotas or customs duties.

The UK and the EU have also agreed trusted trader schemes and co-operation in customs at the border, to explore exchange of import and export information and aide ‘roll-on roll-off’ flow at ports – reducing administrative burdens on business and possible delays. Mutual agreement was also made in the collection of VAT and debt recovery, building on existing international agreements while recognising the UK as a tax-sovereign nation, able to set and control its own tax regime.

James Butcher, head of policy at the National Federation of Builders and chair of the Construction Leadership Council’s Brexit working group, said: “The UK and EU’s announcement of a trade deal will come as welcome relief, not just to the construction industry but to the global economy. The agreements reached will enable construction companies to continue to reliably forecast the cost and availability of products and materials imported from the EU or comprising components made in the EU. The mutual co-operation in respect of reducing technical trade barriers and co-operation at the border will also undoubtedly help to avoid some of the risks of delay and disruption. What this means is that in January we will not see the inflationary shock of tariff and quota introductions or the expected currency depreciation associated with a no-deal.  This deal delivers certainty at a time when it is needed most and represents a good day for British construction.”

The Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) also welcomed the deal being reached saying that it provided the construction sector with much needed reassurance regarding the cost and availability of building products and materials.

BMF chief executive John Newcomb, who also co-chairs the Construction Leadership Council’s movement of goods and materials working group said:

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“While we still have to study the detail, the conclusion of a trade deal should avoid unnecessary tariffs on building products and materials moving between the EU and the UK and the price rises that would inevitably follow. This has always been our favoured outcome.  Every day of uncertainty made it harder for our members to plan and those who trade with the EU will be relieved that they will not have to deal with a host of additional procedures as well as additional costs.

“Builders and other local tradespeople continued to work to improve people’s home throughout the pandemic and are set to play a key role in the UK’s post-Covid economic recovery.  We now have the assurance of the continued free flow of materials needed to fulfil the government’s promise to build back better, improve the energy efficiency of our homes and create the many thousands of jobs required to do so.

“However, we remain concerned over the capacity problems at UK container ports, which in recent weeks have demonstrated how quickly shortages and consequential price increases can occur.  We are continuing to press for action to resolve these issues as soon as possible, so the construction industry’s new year return to work is not slowed by the lack of key products.”

Federation of Master Builders chief executive Brian Berry said: “After the toughest of years, Britain’s builders will welcome the certainty that this deal appears to offer. Unfortunately, however, the deal will have come too late for many already feeling the effects of prolonged indecision.”

He concluded: “Nine in 10 builders already face risings costs due to supply chain disruptions and higher product demand. We will wait to digest the detail, but this trade deal must deliver for builders by removing the barriers in their path to building back better and greener, be those access to products or skilled labour.”

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