Regulation doesn't need to be a millstone

We need a properly managed recovery.

There has finally been something to cheer about in recent weeks. The economy seems to be experiencing some meaningful growth, unemployment appears to be dropping across the country and the property sector is at long last out of the doldrums. All in all, with the winter months fast approaching, it seems that the "green shoots" we’ve heard so much talk about over the past few years are finally beginning to germinate.

As we all know, tied to all the economic woes of recent times is the property sector. Property represents a huge proportion of the UK’s wealth and when the sector starts to suffer, so too does everything else. In the same way that we need a healthy banking sector to support the nation’s businesses, we need a healthy property and construction sector to build our homes, maintain our roads and make sure our assets are correctly valued. In a nutshell, property makes the world go around.

We know that the Coalition Government is reluctant to create new laws or legislation, seeing it as a potential burden on business. It is for this reason that they’ve pushed ahead with the likes of the Red Tape Challenge, since so many large firms have cited "regulation" as a cost holding back their growth plans. In this environment, professional standards and ethics, created by professional institutions, are all the more important.

We need specialists operating to regulated professional standards and guidance to protect against things like projects coming in way over budget or homes not being built properly. Ministers rightly say the state can’t do everything, and nor would we want it to; they turn to the professional institutions and their members to provide guidance and certainty. The standards set by RICS for its members safeguard against these things and are the sort of thing we’re going to need if we’re going to have a lively yet sustainable property sector powering our economy.

Regulation does not need to be a millstone around the neck of the long-awaited recovery. With an effectively regulated, ethical property sector driving the UK forward, it is not green shoots that we’re looking to in twenty years, but a blooming garden.

Photograph: Getty Images

Mark Walley is Regional Managing Director of RICS EMEA.

Photo: Getty
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Theresa May's "clean Brexit" is hard Brexit with better PR

The Prime Minister's objectives point to the hardest of exits from the European Union. 

Theresa May will outline her approach to Britain’s Brexit deal in a much-hyped speech later today, with a 12-point plan for Brexit.

The headlines: her vow that Britain will not be “half in, half out” and border control will come before our membership of the single market.

And the PM will unveil a new flavour of Brexit: not hard, not soft, but “clean” aka hard but with better PR.

“Britain's clean break from EU” is the i’s splash, “My 12-point plan for Brexit” is the Telegraph’s, “We Will Get Clean Break From EU” cheers the Express, “Theresa’s New Free Britain” roars the Mail, “May: We’ll Go It Alone With CLEAN Brexit” is the Metro’s take. The Guardian goes for the somewhat more subdued “May rules out UK staying in single market” as their splash while the Sun opts for “Great Brexpectations”.

You might, at this point, be grappling with a sense of déjà vu. May’s new approach to the Brexit talks is pretty much what you’d expect from what she’s said since getting the keys to Downing Street, as I wrote back in October. Neither of her stated red lines, on border control or freeing British law from the European Court of Justice, can be met without taking Britain out of the single market aka a hard Brexit in old money.

What is new is the language on the customs union, the only area where May has actually been sparing on detail. The speech will make it clear that after Brexit, Britain will want to strike its own trade deals, which means that either an unlikely exemption will be carved out, or, more likely, that the United Kingdom will be out of the European Union, the single market and the customs union.

(As an aside, another good steer about the customs union can be found in today’s row between Boris Johnson and the other foreign ministers of the EU27. He is under fire for vetoing an EU statement in support of a two-state solution, reputedly to curry favour with Donald Trump. It would be strange if Downing Street was shredding decades of British policy on the Middle East to appease the President-Elect if we weren’t going to leave the customs union in order at the end of it.)

But what really matters isn’t what May says today but what happens around Europe over the next few months. Donald Trump’s attacks on the EU and Nato yesterday will increase the incentive on the part of the EU27 to put securing the political project front-and-centre in the Brexit talks, making a good deal for Britain significantly less likely.

Add that to the unforced errors on the part of the British government, like Amber Rudd’s wheeze to compile lists of foreign workers, and the diplomatic situation is not what you would wish to secure the best Brexit deal, to put it mildly.

Clean Brexit? Nah. It’s going to get messy. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.