Steve Norris reckons he’s bored with Brexit. To my mind, that’s like saying you’re bored waiting for the test results to come in for what could be a life-threatening illness - or at best a life-changing one (don’t you just hate that euphemism?).
I’m not bored. I’m scared. Why? Because we live in a world of poli-tainment, a world in which the Americans are in danger of going one up on us Brits by making a mad man their president (at least loony Corbyn is on the fringe of power), a world in which a good chunk of little Britain is simultaneously patriotic (read xenophobic) and politically cavalier (read stupid) and could well vote for Brexit just for fun, consequences be damned. It’s a toddler-with-a-loaded-gun scenario - and our political and economic future are in the firing line.
Don’t take my word for it. Bank of England governor Mark Carney has risked his job to warn Brexit could cause a recession, and while Brexiteers such as Richard Tice and Alastair Stewart believe that long-term gain will outweigh any short- or medium-term pain, our front-page story and special feature on Brexit reveal other senior industry figures are just as worried. Three-fifths of those polled in a survey undertaken by Property Week believe that Brexit would have a negative impact on property, and the outlook of those surveyed by law firm Nabarro is equally pessimistic, with investors particularly downbeat.
The problem, of course, is that no one really knows what the impact would be, which is why Land Securities chief executive Rob Noel warned this week of the “uncertainty for business” and “a propensity for demand to fall”, at least in the short term.
Uncertainty over the EU referendum has already prompted a “marked increase” in the number of Brexit clauses in deal contracts, according to Nabarro. It has also led to many shelving deals until the vote, and some threatening to shelve them altogether if we leave. One developer contact says he recently presented to a European institution looking for space in a northern city, and that while they liked the scheme a lot, they were not making any decisions until after the vote. If the UK leaves, they were highly unlikely to invest in the UK, he added.
Uncertainty and falling demand don’t really work for this industry. It is for these reasons and the wider political and economic unknowns that I have always personally leaned towards remain (with heart as well as head), and a quick straw poll of the Property Week editorial team reveals that of my colleagues who intend to or can vote (a fifth don’t or can’t), two-thirds are in the same camp.
If only the outcome was in our or the industry’s hands. Unfortunately, it isn’t and the latest polls show the public is split 50/50. But let’s at least do our bit. While the UK is not very popular in Europe - witness Eurovision and how the UK plummeted down the table as soon as the public votes started to come in - we’re better in and I’m not that excited, frankly, about the prospect of another recession. Are you?