However, the largest contractors are slightly less optimistic about the short term business prospects than smaller contractors.
The latest opinions following the UK’s referendum vote to leave the European Union are revealed in a new survey from the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and Scotland’s trade association for the electrical industry SELECT.
The building services engineering sector – which makes up 40% of the UK’s construction and maintenance industry – believes it will successfully weather the outcome of Brexit over the next few years.
Almost half of survey respondents (46%) believe Brexit will have a positive impact on their company in just five years’ time, with less than one in five (19%) saying it will have a negative impact. A further 23% said it would have no discernible impact. However, the largest contractors in the survey – those with over £20m turnover – are slightly less optimistic about the short term business prospects than smaller contractors.
The sector puts maintaining access to the EU’s single market at the top of its list of Brexit aspirations, closely followed by more control of employment law and the need to negotiate non-EU trade deals. Despite the general positivity about Brexit, 47% of respondents say they believe the cost of materials will rise as a result, while only 22% do not think Brexit will cause this to happen.
Reflecting a general tendency to use skilled UK rather than EU workers, the vast majority (92%) of respondents say they ‘do not rely on EU migrant workers’, and only 25% agree that Brexit would ‘worsen the shortage of qualified workers’. In addition, just 17% said that maintaining freedom of movement was their top priority.
“Our survey clearly shows that many contractors are conditionally optimistic in the wake of the Brexit vote,” said BESA chief executive Paul McLaughlin. “In fact, putting these findings alongside the brighter than expected data for the UK economy as a whole gives us a much more upbeat feel than could reasonably have been predicted back in June.”
He also said that BESA recognised the valuable feedback about what matters most to contractors as the UK sets about negotiating a new relationship with Europe.
“As a result, we will draw up an action plan for the building engineering services sector to focus our lobbying efforts in the coming months,” he said.
“No matter how our relationship with Europe develops our sector has a huge role to play in achieving UK business growth,” said ECA CEO Steve Bratt.
“Significantly, contractors are telling us that they want the UK to maintain access to the single market, while they less concerned about ensuring freedom of movement,” he added.