This article originally appeared in Building magazine on 11 December 2020.
Andrew Reynolds has warned the industry could be hit by six months of materials delays if the UK fails to strike a trade deal with the EU by the end of the year.
His is the latest voice to raise concerns about the possibility, calling a no-deal “horrendous” adding stock would be hit by delays at ports and price hikes as the UK switched to WTO trading rules.
He added: “I do see a logjam of three to six months and lead times stretching out to three or four weeks. Contractors and suppliers have been moving ahead with pre-planning but no deal in the short-term would be horrendous.”
Materials in short supply include sanitaryware, brassware, tiles and stone, he said, adding: “No deal doesn’t mean ‘stop’ but it’s about the speed of adaption rather than whether we continue [working] or not. There will be supply and demand issues [for materials], an impact because of tariffs and currency fluctuations. What happens to the rate of the pound in the event of no deal? A deal and certainty is better than no deal and uncertainty.”
Reynolds said Brexit would mean a “bumpy” first half of next year, with the firm saying it expects turnover to be down by around 8% when its current financial year ends next April.
RLB posted £70m of income in 2019/20 but Reynolds said its commercial, retail and hospitality work has all been affected by the pandemic.
But the firm, which moved into new offices in the Salesforce Tower, formerly the Heron Tower in the City, in October, said its technology, logistics, infrastructure and healthcare workloads had held up during the crisis.
“I think there will be a recovery of confidence during  and a more normal 2022,” he added. “I don’t see  as a stellar year but it will be about building back.”
The pandemic forced the firm to pause its 10-year plan in the spring but Reynolds said it was now pushing on with it which will see numbers at its UK business grow from the current 700 to 1,100.
The firm’s office at the Heron Tower is for 12,500 sq ft which Reynolds said was smaller than it originally planned because of the impact of covid has had on people working out of an office.
RLB also has offices in Birmingham and Manchester but such has been the impact of covid on office working since the first lockdown was announced in March, the maximum number of people the firm has had working across all three on a single day since has been just 80.
RLB spent a decade at nearby New Broad Street.