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Brexit impact to geotechnics could extend beyond investment and skills

Uncertainty surrounding the UK’s Brexit deal has led Arup director Tim Chapman to question whether the ground engineering sector should consider stockpiling geotechnical consumables ahead of the exit from the EU in March 2019.

“If agreements are put in place, then in principle there should be minimal impact to the sector but we need to consider the potential,” said Chapman at yesterday’s British Drilling Association Solutions for the future of the geotechnical industry conference.

Chapman also warned that Brexit could reduce the ability to export geotechnical products to the EU.

“It is already widely acknowledged that Brexit has wiped 3% off UK growth and the country has gone from the best performing economy in the EU, to the worst,” he said. “We are now less than six months from the first staging point in the Brexit process and there is still lots to sort out, which will have an impact on the ground engineering industry.

“Current opinion polls suggest there will be ongoing confusion beyond the March 2019 milestone and that is a toxic situation.

“Private investors are being deterred from making decisions. The expected fall in tax take means that the government may need to make savings and, from past experience, infrastructure spending is one of the fastest areas to turn off in order to make savings.”

Chapman also said that Brexit was already having an impact on staff with many foreign engineers already opting to take jobs outside of the UK rather than wait and see what changes Brexit brings.

Despite the expected impact in the short term, Chapman urged the industry to understand the value that its work delivers and focus on digitisation and automation in order to improve productivity.


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