Timber sector responds to Brexit

24 June 2016

Timber sector representative bodies have been giving their reaction to the historic Brexit vote, with the Structural Timber Association (STA) calling for its part of the industry to “stand together”.

The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) also said it was important for companies to be well informed and prepared to assess potential risks following the vote to leave the EU.

“Today’s referendum announcement will undoubtedly raise concerns for the structural timber industry and the construction sector as a whole,” said Andrew Carpenter, STA chief executive.

“There will be a period of uncertainty and adjustment, but this is not a time to let divisions of political ideology split us. Instead, we must continue to relentlessly work towards our common goal – to grow the structural timber frame sector and promote the inherent benefits that structural timber frame as a building material offers.

“Now is the time for the structural timber industry to stand resolutely together and seek to embrace any opportunities that this change may bring.”

Iain McIlwee, chief executive of the BWF, said the UK was entering a new chapter in its history.

“But for the ongoing management and strategic decision making that is still needed on a day-to-day basis in the joinery manufacturing and woodworking industry, what matters now is that firms are well informed and well prepared to assess risk.

“From that position of preparedness, businesses will be able to ride through the inevitable period of change ahead with greater confidence and optimism.”

“Some of the risks will be immediate, such as fluctuating currency.

“The impact on material and component imports must be factored into estimates and companies must ensure they are not caught out on projects that they have already quoted on, but materials have not been secured.

“Some are longer term and the force of the impact will depend very much on how our government reacts. Government must set aside petty squabbling and personal ambition and unite cross-party to end the period of uncertainty as soon as possible and start creating this new future we have been promised.”

The BWF has already prepared a risk matrix, freely available on its website.

The Confederation of Forest Industries, which represents 1,500 forestry and wood-using businesses across the UK, said it would work to provide answers to the questions people in the sector had following the vote.

"There are significant areas where the EU has had a major impact on the forestry and timber sector, which Confor highlighted in its report published in April , including grants, regulation, plant health and standards for trading timber," Confor said.

"Confor will now look very carefully at each of those areas and produce a report for members to identify what is likely to happen next - and when."  

Meanwhile, the UK’s largest builders group – the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has warned that the government must ensure that the new system of immigration provides the construction sector with enough skilled workers to build the homes and infrastructure projects needed.

“The UK construction industry has been heavily reliant on migrant workers from Europe for decades now – at present, 12% of the British construction workers are of non-UK origin,” said Brian Berry, FMB chief executive.

“The majority of these workers are from EU countries such as Poland, Romania and Lithuania and they have helped the construction industry bounce back from the economic downturn when 400,000 skilled workers left our industry, most of which did not return.”