Comment: Why Brexit must not derail domestic affairs

Brexit is distracting politicians from issues that continue to dog the UK

Last week Theresa May met with EU leaders once again, this time at a summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Following the talks, the Prime Minister wrote in the Daily Mail that the UK remained “firmly on course” to leave the EU with a deal… “if MPs hold their nerve”.

It is a somewhat strange remark. And most people would read between the lines to understand that she was more likely trying to say: “if MPs just agree with the deal I have proposed”. But that is a rather large ‘if’.

The splits across Westminster are getting wider by the day, and as a result calls to delay Brexit are getting louder and louder. As it stands, on 12 March, just 17 days before the leaving date, MPs will have a final vote on Mrs May’s deal. If the deal is rejected again, as many are predicting, then MPs would get a separate vote on whether or not to delay the Brexit deadline.

Irrespective of one’s stance on Brexit, and regardless of the results two aforementioned votes, there is a message that needs to be made loud and clear to the government: you can not allow negotiations with Brussels to completely derail domestic affairs any longer. I would hazard a guess that if put on the spot, the UK public would be hard pressed to name any significant new policies or reforms that have been introduced in recent months.

All talk has been on Brexit and consequently hugely important challenges closer to home have been overlooked. In the property sector, Brexit risks exacerbating problems such as the housing crisis. In fact, a survey of over 400 house building firms revealed that less than half think the government’s target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s is achievable.

As one of the most pressing matters in domestic politics – something that all major parties campaigned on in the last election – the housing crisis requires greater attention. It needs public sector investment coupled with support for private sector businesses to ensure more properties are added to the market.

More generally, anecdotal evidence suggests that a number of people who are currently considering buying or selling a property in the UK have put their plans on hold while the Brexit saga plays out. Businesses, investors and consumers are in need clarity around domestic plans; but a lack of action by the government – including Housing Minister Kit Malthouse – is failing to provide the reassurances consumers need to progress with significant financial decisions.

There have been isolated announcements, which are welcomed. For example, on 28 February it was revealed that 1,500 family homes will be built at the Festival Gardens in Liverpool. And beyond this, efforts must be made to engage local councils with landowners and construction firms to ensure more developments emerge across the country.

At Experience Invest we have the unique benefit of working very closely with both construction firms and property investors. Fundamentally, it is clear that, despite some scaremongering, the real estate market remains both healthy and popular. But the government cannot take this for granted.

Deal or no deal, 29 March or a later date, whatever form Brexit takes it is of critical importance that Theresa May et al do not allow for this single issue – however huge it might be – to completely derail domestic affairs.

In the property space, construction must be encouraged, incentives must be considered so people can get on and move up the ladder, and infrastructure must be constantly improved. The government must give such matters due thought, attention and resource.

Jerald Solis is business development and acquisitions director at Experience Invest.

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