CEA press release Brexit
CEA press release Brexit

CEA (Construction Equipment Association) Brexit Briefing II and Markets Review Conference

The recent CEA Conference took place at Manchester United FC at Old Trafford and was attended by 60 CEA member delegates from the Construction Equipment sector and special guests.

The conference was moderated by Chris Sleight, senior consultant at Off-Highway Research, who is recognised as one of the world’s leading authorities on global Construction Equipment markets. Chris kicked off proceedings with an update on the possible impact of Brexit on the UK construction equipment industry and what the UK would like to see happen.
Free access to the single market was an aspect of the EU that the UK would like to keep, however, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier told a conference in the Belgian capital that the EU wants to offer its “most ambitious free trade agreement” to the UK, but warned that there was no question of Britain “cherry picking” elements of the single market which it wanted to keep.
Financial servicing passporting alongside the other three of the four freedoms which include free movement of goods, services and capital were also on the ‘wish list’ of EU keeps. Mr Barnier said that the UK’s financial sector will lose the “passporting” arrangements which allow them to operate in the remaining EU as a result of Brexit.
There’s also the desire that UK citizens retain the right to live and work in the EU, but have more controls on immigration however, this is not looking likely as Mr Barnier said today, “We take note of the UK decision to end free movement of people. This means, clearly, that the UK will close the benefits of the single market. This is a legal reality.”
Mr Sleight also touched on Switzerland and Norway’s relationship with the EU. These are two countries that are not EU members but still have very close trading relationships with the rest of Europe. However, he pointed out that there really was no off the shelf solution that would work for the UK. Potential impacts for the UK CE Industry included further devaluation of the £ would drive prices up meaning higher costs of imported equipment, components and diesel – however we could experience a price advantage for UK manufactured equipment both at home and overseas. Exiting the EEA/EFTA could also mean 5-10% tariffs on imports and exports.
We could potentially lose skilled workers and manufacturers as custom headaches will mean the UK is less attractive as a manufacturing base.
Mr Sleight also said that a ‘no deal’ would be very bad for the UK and could result in chaos, “There is no upside to a ‘no deal’– it’s uncharted territory.” He also said that “There are no advantages to Brexit in the near future.”
On a more positive note the UK market has remained buoyant with a reasonable pipeline of infrastructure work and housebuilding is very strong. Next to take the stage was new CEA Patron and former Conservative Party MEP, Malcolm Harbour CBE. Mr Harbour spoke about Norway’s relationship with the EU he said, “A Norwegian style agreement would be the optimum outcome in this (Brexit). We have everything to play for here.” Norway contributes around €400 million a year in grants but does not contribute directly – therefore not putting money into a bottomless pit. While not formally a single market membership fee, this money is linked to trade relations with the EU.
Mr Harbour also told conference delegates that the ‘single market’ is the most advanced trade agreement which was a significant achievement of Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s – this influential British initiative is a legacy we are striving to keep.
Mr Harbour recommended visiting the website ‘UK in a changing Europe’ http://ukandeu.ac.uk/ which is an excellent source for independent research on UK-EU relations.
Steve Crosley, business development manager, UK Export Finance explained how UKEF ‘Lead with Finance’ to help UK exporters capture opportunities. Mr Crosley confirmed 79% of exporters benefiting from UKEF’s support are SMEs. In 2016/17 alone £3 billion of support, a 60% increase on 2015/16, was provided for 221 companies and the UKEF have provided £14 billion of support over the last five years for UK exporters. UKEF also lent a record £305 million directly to infrastructure and energy projects.
Mr Crosley went on to speak about Brexit and what the UKEF are doing now we face this prospect, he said, “Despite the EU being the UK’s biggest trading partner – most of UKEF’s support is provided outside the EU, however, a new DIT is working flat out to help UK’s Trade Deficit.” Mr Crosley added, “A huge increase in UKEF market capacity has doubled all our key limits and we have increased the number of local currencies we are prepared to accept.”
Other UKEF initiatives to combat the Brexit effect include increased collaboration with Trade Sector specialists and the organisation has employed 20 international EFM’s (Export Finance Manager’s).
Mr Crosley was also pleased to announce the UKEF’s 4th Supplier Fair bringing the overseas buyer to the UK – which has resulted in a massive increase of UK contractors working on overseas deals.
Malcolm Kent, CEA senior technical consultant spoke about the aspects of Brexit and the future for a mutual recognition, he confirmed that on Brexit day – not much changes where legislation is concerned. All directives, regulations and ECJ judgments will continue to apply in the UK these include Machinery Directive, Noise Directive, – NRMM (Engine Emissions) Regulation and the rest.
The practicalities of ‘conformity assessment’ are if you are manufacturer who carries out self-assessment – then carry on! However, if you rely on 3rd party assessment you need to be mindful post Brexit and new assessments post exit-day need to be by a body ‘Notified’ by an EU member state.
The ‘Blue Guide’ on the implementation of EU product rules states, “Although the notified body must be established on the territory of the notifying Member State, it may have activities or personnel outside the Member State, or even outside the Union.” The SMMT and others want VCA approvals to be possible post-Brexit. Mr Kent recommends you talk to your NB (notified bodies) soon!
In conclusion Mr Kent said, “Be prepared for a hard Brexit – the minimum you will need on Brexit-day is a contact in the EU – ‘the name and address of the person authorised to compile the technical file, who must be established in the Community’. Anyone in the EU 27 will do.”
Professor Noble Francis, economics director at the CPA (Constructions Products Association) gave his construction industry forecasts for 2017-2019 and reported a growth in the UK economy of 0.4% in GPD in Q3 of 2017 which is an 8.1% increase in the size of the economy compared to the pre-downturn peak.
The UK’s rapidly falling unemployment rate (4.3%) has been one of the major economic success stories of the past year – with a 75.1% employment rate – this was Initially led by part-timers and the self-employed. Real wages, which dropped 8% since the financial crisis began, are recovering but slowly.
Private housing and RM&I (repairs, maintenance and improvement) is the 3rd largest in the construction sector worth £17 billion and is expected to grow.
Prof Francis highlighted the key risks moving forward Globally which again are the political, economic and social uncertainty. In the domestic market, Brexit, further austerity, negative margins and the post-Grenfell fallout will influence the market.
Contractor margins have also fallen to an all-time low – in 2014 the average top-ten pre-tax margin was 2.9% in 2017 it’s -0.5%.
Paul Lyons MBA, marketing information manager CEA provided the audience with a UK equipment market and trade update. HS2 (High Speed two railway) was first on the agenda with Phase One beginning in 2018 and due for completion in 2025. £900m enabling works began spring 2017, and involves three joint ventures working on site clearance, preparation and utilities for four- years.
Companies involved are CS JV (Costain Group Plc, Skanska Construction UK), Fusion JV (Morgan Sindall Construction & Infrastructure, BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman (UK) and LM JV (Laing O’Rourke Construction, J. Murphy & Sons).
In July 2017 the four Main Works Civils Contractors were appointed to complete £6.6 billion work over 5.5 years which is due to start in 2019. The main contractors are SCS JV (Skanska Construction UK, Costain, STRABAG AG), Align JV (Bouygues Travaux Publics, Volker Fitzpatrick, Sir Robert McAlpine), CEK JV (Carillion Construction Eiffage Genie Civil SA, Kier Infrastructure and Overseas) and BBV JV (Balfour Beatty Group, VINCI Construction Grands Projects, VINCI Construction UK, VINCI Construction Terrassement.
The amount of construction equipment needed to complete phase one is currently being assessed by the main contractors and its estimated that 1730 machines will be required – which is good news for manufacturers and rental companies. It is thought that there will be in the region of 636 ADT’s (articulated dump trucks) needed to shift 132million tonnes of excavated material.
To supply these machines The Connect alliance was launched in June 2017 – which is a consortium of plant hire companies led by A Plant, Flannery and Lynch. As well as labour supplier Fortel. It also includes Ainscough Crane Hire, Selwood Pumps, MGF Excavation Safety Solutions, Morson Group, VGC and Citrus Training. Together the ten companies have an equipment inventory worth £1.5bn across nearly 500 locations.
Mr Lyons then went on to announce some more good news! Construction equipment sales show 6% growth in the first nine months of 2017 – the growth has been driven by excavators. Mini/Midi Excavators are the most popular product which reflect a buoyant housebuilding market. Equipment sales in Northern and Southern Ireland also showed an 11% growth in the first nine months of 2017. Year to date growth has been driven by Mini/Midi excavators and Telehandlers. The top three volume products account for over 80% of sales in Ireland.
With further growth in 2017, sales remain at a relatively high and stable level in the UK market, post “crash”. Demand for mini excavators and compact equipment is being supported by house building, while demand for larger machines is being fuelled by major infrastructure projects. Further modest growth is expected next year, supported by confidence in the rental sector. Beyond that it is difficult to forecast with any confidence due to the potential impact of Brexit.
Chris Sleight took to the stage to close the conference and gave a brief overview of the Global Construction Equipment markets. Once again uncertainty and unpredictable events cloud the future. These of course include Brexit, Donald Trump and Russia. North America is still fragile but showing positive signs of recovery. India will be stronger and more dependable than in the past and after five-years of decline, China is showing signs of recovery.
The CEA annual AGM Conference, where innovation is the theme, will now take place on 22nd March 2018 at One Great George Street, London.