Last weekend was pretty disorientating, wasn’t it?
Mere minutes seemed to elapse between being told late on Friday that David Cameron’s negotiations in Brussels to strike a deal were likely to run into the weekend and the Cameron camp announcing a deal had been done and a great victory secured. The prime minister’s grandstanding rhetoric then reverberated for hours unchecked as a nation went to bed stunned that after months of scepticism that a resolution could be found, it apparently had been. But then, as people began to scrutinise the nuts and bolts of the deal over the next couple of days, the knives came out - not so much pricking Cameron’s balloon as slashing it into ribbons.
Yet paradoxically, for all the cynicism about the deal, the ‘Remain’ camp’s hand appears to have been strengthened in the public polls, with 46% in favour of staying in the EU and 38% wanting out. The balance in favour of maintaining the status quo is even greater within the property industry, with a poll conducted by Property Week this week revealing that 66% want to stay in.
So what’s occurring? The ‘Remains’ have no doubt been influenced by the fact that so far, many of those joining the ‘Leave’ camp - think George Galloway, Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson - hail from the more colourful end of the political spectrum. But in property at least, they are also motivated by fear of the impact of Brexit, a fear that will only intensify ahead of the EU referendum and as parts of the property market wobble ever more violently.
Quidnet’s Richard Tice is predictably quick to pour water on such concerns and Legal & General’s Bill Hughes argues that the impact either way would be less extreme than people think. However, Hughes concedes that in the short term, we’re in for a period of uncertainty - those who can defer investment or occupational decisions will - and Land Securities’ Rob Noel warns that if the nation does head for the Brexit, those months of uncertainty would turn into years, which is where the real damage could be done.
Needless to say, during this week’s LandAid debate between the London mayoral candidates, Tory hopeful and Brexit supporter Zac Goldsmith disputed the suggestion any damage would be done - although presumably to stop the issue detracting from his mayoral bid, he sought to distance himself from the issue by stressing he would not campaign on Brexit and insisting London would “flourish” whatever the outcome.
While the others were firmly in the Remain camp, there was a surprising amount of agreement on other issues - although things got a bit tetchy between Goldsmith and Labour rival Sadiq Khan when the former started slamming Khan’s “fantasy” housing policies and somewhat ironically, the Lib-Dems’ Caroline Pidgeon set the cat among ‘em in the audience when she called the Walkie-Talkie tower and Cheesegrater “blights on the skyline”, eliciting sharp intakes of breath all round. Now, the industry will be collectively holding its breath ahead of the EU referendum and hoping that even if opinion does swing in favour of Brexit, the doom-mongers are wrong.