Brexit factor likely to delay big Irish construction projects

Brexit uncertainty is expected to delay Irish construction projects valued at hundreds of millions of euro, according to those working in the sector.

JP Hilliard, director of development and project management at WK Nolan Real Estate Advisors, said he anticipated considerable disruption to projects in the absence of clarity on the UK’s departure terms.

He said his company had engaged with investors on several student accommodation projects but contractors were facing increased risks due to question marks surrounding material supply chains and costs.

Such uncertainty, how it might affect projects and how those effects might be dealt with, are factors that have not yet been built into legal contracts, which is causing hesitation in proceeding with projects.

Mr Hilliard estimated that €200 million-€300 million worth of projects are “about to be stalled” in the coming weeks unless some certainty is arrived at.

He was speaking to The Irish Times after addressing the issue of Brexit at the National Construction Summit in Citywest, Dublin, on Thursday.

“The price pressure on projects is extreme,” he said. “A lot of projects are at the tipping edge where they are not proceeding, and I think Brexit could well be the risk that stops a lot of projects that are well in train where consultants are appointed for main contractors.”

Eastern Europeans

While Brexit played out loudly in the political background and on the news, it barely featured on the conference schedule, but it was a talking point.

However, Sinéad Lew, senior tax manager at PwC, noted a particular threat to projects outside Dublin.

Ricky Burke of Truck and Trailer Works, an equipment leasing company based on both sides of the Border, said one Brexit downside was that many of his employees who travel between depots in Armagh and Dublin are eastern European and their ease of movement across the Border could be compromised.

However, the company has recently secured a £1 million contract with a Spanish firm shipping fresh fruit to Ireland that has already abandoned the British land bridge, and other companies have leased its trailers to store goods in case of a hard Brexit.

“There is weaknesses, no doubt ... but it’s a business at the end of the day. You can’t just pack up because of Brexit,” Mr Burke said.