The government seems to have ignored the effect of Brexit on the creative industries, which contribute more than a quarter of the UK’s economy. This de facto imposed hard Brexit on the industry is creating major challenges for architects – and the creative sector in general – as 40 years of complex agreements unravel into a vacuum.
As of 31 December last year, we have lost important freedoms, and we no longer have reciprocity of recognition for our qualifications in the EU. What was a simple administrative application is now turning into a much more complex process, with more paperwork and proofs of compliance required.
The RIBA and ARB need to lobby government to ensure the agreements between the UK and the EU allow architects to export their services as well as to continue to employ EU talent. Fishermen and performing artists have rightly been vocal in fighting for their rights. We as architects should also add our voices to defend the creative industries’ right to continue working seamlessly within the EU.
Working in Europe is in Stanton Williams’s DNA. A lot of us started our careers on the Continent – Alan Stanton was part of the team on the Pompidou Centre before setting up a practice in Paris, and I have worked in Switzerland and France prior to settling in the UK. A significant part of our talented team comes from the EU – bringing diversity of thought and culture that expands our horizons and enriches the debate in the studio and our work.
Europe is not just an important market for us, it is an opportunity to enrich our partnerships and experience and promote British design abroad, while bringing back home the lessons learnt.
France is a country that really values investing in culture. We currently have two major projects under way there – a library for the city of Clermont-Ferrand and a large housing project in Nantes, which follows our successful completion of the Museum of Art for the same city – in addition to an ongoing competition for a high-profile cultural project.
We are registering all our principals in France
At present we have no plans to open an office in Paris, although that could change. Instead, we are currently in the process of registering all our principals in France. Before Brexit, it was a straightforward matter of doing this locally but now we have to do this centrally for every project in whichever country we’re working in, and it’s a lot more complex and lengthy process.
The Brexit impact goes much further than this. London’s position as the global hub for international architectural services and the city with the greatest concentration of international and UK architects in the world, is now under threat. I now fear it will be a lot harder, to hire European architects post-Brexit. Nor will London be as attractive to European architects as it once was.
We enjoy working in Europe and we want to carry on doing so. Europe is also the right place for us to work for sustainability reasons – we can get to mainland Europe easily by train, without incurring the carbon cost of air travel.
The doors have been open for us there since the completion of our acclaimed Musée des Beaux-Arts project in Nantes. It is frustrating to think that they might start to close because of unresolved Brexit technicalities.
Patrick Richard is a principal director of Stanton Williams