This week’s horrors in Brussels serve as a depressing reminder that terrible things can happen to innocent people who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Should such events change the way we go about our daily lives? No. Will they? Possibly.
But the truth is that however hypervigilant we become, these events are largely beyond our control - and perhaps they should focus our minds on what we can control.
Take conflicts of interest. That firms still routinely dabble in the dark art of double-dipping does not mean they are guilty of the worst of Western business practice offences, but it does not reflect particularly well on them either. Are they doing enough to tackle such conflicts? The verdict of a 160-page report by Leeds university, shared exclusively with Property Week, is an unequivocal ‘no’. Conflicts of interest were raised once again during the Property Awards judging sessions as an ongoing bane of industry life and the report described the existing protocols as “inadequate”, warning there were “clear risks” in relying on Chinese walls.
Surely it is time to stop assuming the measures in place are fit for purpose and rise to the challenge when the RICS does produce its new mandatory code of practice, even if its teeth are not quite as sharp as some would like. It is in our power - and our interests - to clamp down on conflicts of interest before the problem escalates any further. It is simply not good enough to accept that with so much consolidation in the industry, such conflicts are inevitable and therefore beyond our control.
It is tempting to throw our hands up in the air amid all the uncertainty surrounding Brexit as well. Last Thursday at Mipim, spirits were lifted somewhat by the sunshine, having been dampened by the squally weather and Budget the day before. But the mood was still decidedly “apprehensive”, as Knight Frank’s Alistair Elliott put it.
He believes everyone is either genuinely worried about Brexit or using it as an excuse - and that most are guilty of the latter. There is already talk of deals being delayed until the vote and of Brexit clauses being introduced allowing people to back out in the event of an exit.
But let’s not start prematurely talking down the market when the fundamentals are so strong. Yes, some sectors are in danger of overheating in the capital, but many of the UK’s major regional centres are just finding their feet, and there is not only strong occupier demand for office space but also signs of rental growth. There is room for optimism in retail as well. Some occupiers are experiencing pain but there are plenty that are expanding too.
As Elliott says, the key to the impact of Brexit is what occupiers do and they are still signing up for space. Although overseas investors are asking questions, they too are still doing deals. This is at worst a glass-half-full scenario, surely, and once again it is up to the industry to take control and ensure it remains that way.
If the uncertainty surrounding the EU referendum does damage the market, it will do it all on its own - it doesn’t need any help from us.