Now that Brexit is done…

Whatever your views on the subject and whatever the impacts on your business, one can more or less hear a collective sigh of relief from our industry that Brexit is ‘done’ and we now have some clarity on what we have to deal with.

The initial main benefits for our sector of having a deal are that material supplies are now less likely to be affected than if we had been faced with no deal. Also, there’s less likely to be an inflationary effect on material prices.

It also seems likely problems with cooperation around technical trade barriers will be a lot easier to overcome than if there had been no deal. However, considerable work will still be required in this area, and the CFA is ready to provide support, especially though its manufacturers’ committee.

Many companies will have been grappling with the new realities of being outside the EU since the beginning of January. Comments from wider industry have included concern around the mutual recognition of qualifications for professions such as architects. These issues add potential cost and delay into the future pipeline of works.

Although movement of people is hailed as a new era for the UK in controlling our own borders, the reduced ability of the flooring industry to import skilled labour in areas where we have historically experienced shortages remains a worry.

We believe working within the new system will in practice still require lobbying to iron out current issues, and the CFA is ready to do that, as necessary, alongside providing members with the latest information and guidance on making the best of the new opportunities hopefully created by Brexit.

The new points‐based immigration system, which came into force from the beginning of this year, is undoubtedly going to present challenges for our sector. There is still insufficient clarity over the responsibilities of employers to undertake right to work checks, and government guidance has not been easy to follow. In addition, an old version of the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes is being used, which doesn’t correctly recognise key construction roles, and a number of occupations are unsure if they meet the required skill (RQF3) level.

Build UK has made representations to the Home Office, highlighting the complexity of the system and the significant impact it is going to have on the availability of labour in the industry just when it is being asked to step up and deliver government’s ‘Build Build Build’ strategy.

The priority for all employers who aim to recruit from overseas is to obtain a sponsor licence. They should also be encouraging the existing EU workforce to apply for settled status.

A government document is available which provides all the necessary information on this subject. Called ‘The UK’s points-based immigration system - An introduction for employers’, this information can be accessed from the Brexit pages of the CFA website.

New guidance was also issued at the turn of the year about Rules of Origin (RoO). This contains new information from government about trading arrangements now that the Brexit transition period has come to an end. With the signing of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement before Christmas, the vast majority of traders moving goods between the UK and EU will avoid paying tariffs on that trade.

However in order to avoid paying tariffs, all traders must now ‘claim preference’ by meeting the relevant Rules of Origin for their products and making a declaration to that effect.
Further information on this subject is also available on the CFA website.