Belfast Telegraph

Construction bosses warned to prepare for hard Brexit

Concerns were raised about the supply of construction materials from the UK.

Construction bosses have been warned to prepare for a hard Brexit and a possible restriction in the supply of building materials.

Officials from Ireland’s housing department told a parliamentary committee that it was making contingency plans for the UK to be treated as a “third country” in the event of Britain leaving the EU without an agreement being reached.

Concerns were raised about the supply of construction materials from the UK during the meeting examining the effect of Brexit on the housing sector in Ireland.

Sarah Neary confirmed that in a no-deal scenario, every single construction product imported form the UK to Ireland would have to be re-certified to ensure they comply with EU regulations.

Ms Neary said: “Post Brexit, UK manufacturers, distributors and importers of construction products placing products on the Irish market will need to continue to comply with the Construction Products Regulation [CPR].

“As we do not yet know what the eventual outcomes of the Brexit negotiations will be, we are nonetheless planning on the basis that the UK becomes a third country as of 30th March 2019.”

She added: “For our particularl area of responsibility in the notification process and that underlying certification of construction products, we are saying prepare for a hard Brexit which means you have to use a notified body that’s established in a member state – be that in Ireland or in Europe has to be used.”

At present, the regulation of products across Europe is harmonised by the EU.

Ms Neary said the department had sought clarity from the European Commission about whether a transition agreement separate from the withdrawal agreement would be put in place in the case of the UK left without a deal.

“[We’re] querying with the Commission at the moment as to what kind of transition arrangement may apply in the situation of a hard Brexit,” she said.

Without a transition arrangement, the movement of goods may be delayed.

Asked whether there was a danger that the cost of construction materials may rise once the UK exited the EU, Ms Neary said she would not comment.

Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway put it to Ms Neary: “Is it your contention that the bottom line is the cost of construction is going to increase as a result of a potential hard Brexit?”

Ms Neary said: “I don’t think we really can comment on that at the moment. We just keep monitoring the situation.”

Mr Conway said he believed it was important that she comment on it, given it was logical that the department would have a “preparation plan with costings”.

But she continued that the “resounding narrative is that this is all uncertain”.

The committee also heard that the department had concerns that higher net migration was going to lead to more people becoming homeless.

Ms Neary said Brexit clearly had the potential to create further sharp swings in migration patterns.

“It is the strong view that significant increases in net migration would present a concern in relation to increased numbers of households having difficulty in accessing affordable accommodation,” she said.

Ms Neary said programmes aimed at increasing delivery of all types of homes – social, affordable and private – and strengthening the regulation of the private rental market and the delivery of additional emergency accommodation beds for the homeless were of “critical importance”.

“Naturally, it is the Department’s ambition that increased housing output will be sufficient to meet demand, but we are also cognisant of the potential risk in this area and will be monitoring the situation very closely,” she said.

More than 9,500 people were recorded as being homeless in Ireland at the end of September, according to the latest official figures, including more than 3,600 children.

The Dublin Regional Homeless Executive, which co-ordinates services across the capital’s four local authorities, has set up a team to prepare for Brexit.

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