Dezeen Magazine

Brexit designers views

"Everything has become an admin nightmare" due to Brexit say UK designers

Designers and architects in the UK are suffering in the wake of Brexit, with companies abandoning exports and setting up offices in the EU to avoid losing clients.

The UK's departure from the European Union has created an "extra headache" and additional costs, designers have told Dezeen.

"It's terrible," said London-based architect Arthur Mamou-Mani. "We have customs agents now dealing with our imports and exports."

"Everything has become an admin nightmare, uselessly complicated and deterring European clients," he added. "I think people that voted yes just didn't realise how much hassle all this would be."

Work lost due to "extra headache"

The Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020, with a last-minute trade deal agreed between the UK and the EU.

But design companies are only now finding out how the UK's departure from the EU will impact their businesses.

"We had not anticipated that it would affect our studio," said Nina Tolstrup, founder of east London design firm Studiomama.

"We just thought that materials would be more expensive and queuing in the airports getting in and out of the country."

"But this has not been the case," she added. "Sending and receiving samples or models is now delayed and starting to arrive with unexpected extra cost.

"We have clients that we work with that prefer not to deal with the extra headache of paperwork."

To get around this, Tolstrup is now considering setting up a studio within the EU.

"It is all a bit blurred as some delays are being assigned to the pandemic," said Tolstrup. "We are not sure at this point how to mitigate the impact but setting up in EU is one thing we have to investigate."

Last month, Waugh Thistleton Architects director Andrew Waugh told Dezeen he too was setting up a European office to mitigate the impact of Brexit.

Delays with couriers and freight forwarding

Other studios reported delays and unexpected fees when transporting goods between the UK and the continent.

"Before Christmas, I sent a sample to a manufacturer with DHL that arrived the next afternoon, as usual," recalled British designer David Taylor, who is based in Sweden.

"At the beginning of January, I sent a prototype to a UK based consultant with DHL," he said.

"It took a week and I had to pay £65 and another tenner for brokerage fees. As a UK citizen, the implications of this breaks my heart."

In response to increased administration architecture charity Open City, which runs Open House London, has suspended sales of its books to EU countries.

"Open City has had to suspend all sales of our books to Europe because it is more paperwork and cost than our tiny team can handle," said Open City director and Dezeen columnist Phineas Harper.

"The government has had four years to come up with a way to leave the EU sensibly but has totally failed us."

"Doing business in Europe becoming more complex"

London design studio Lee Broom also reported issues with shipments to the continent.

"The main issue we are experiencing is not ours directly but that of our courier and freight forwarding partners," said Lee Broom CEO Charles Rudgard.

"They have had so little time to prepare for Brexit as the final deal was agreed so late," he told Dezeen. "We have found that their IT and Customer Service teams are sometimes overloaded."

"Our collections and deliveries are all taking place smoothly to EU but if we need to process anything out of the ordinary at the moment we are finding they are taking much longer than usual to resolve."

London-based designer Pearson Lloyd reported that conducting business in Europe had become harder due to extra costs and legal ramifications.

"Doing business in Europe is becoming more complex as we unravel the legal implications and try to work out what it will do to the costs of raw materials," said Pearson Lloyd co-founder Luke Pearson.

"It will produce [extra] effort and administration with what real gain?" he told Dezeen.

"Brexit has had an impact on our contracts and agreements,' he said. "We have questions to major issues so as taxation that as yet have no answers  "This makes negotiation very difficult."

Not all firms have been impacted

However, other design firm said they had yet to notice adverse effects.

"We have had no impacts from Brexit thankfully," said Benjamin Hubert, creative director of Layer. "We have had a big hiring push in the last few months and as yet that has not been hindered by Brexit."

Sweden-based Anders Nilsson, global sales director at Bolon, also reported that Brexit had had minimal impact on the company or its deliveries to the UK.

"We do not see any specific impact yet," he told Dezeen. "It's also hard to say what is Brexit and what is Covid these days. But we have lived with the knowledge about Brexit for a long time and it has been a step-by-step process," he continued.

"The first delivery for January going from Sweden to the UK has been as fast as before."

These experiences mirror those of architecture studios who last month told Dezeen the immediate impact of Brexit was "quite minor".

Travel "more arduous under the new parameters"

While unaffected by import or export difficulties, London studio Map said it expected regular travel to become more complex.

"Many of the manufacturers and suppliers that we work with are based in Europe," said Map director Will Howe. "As we are in lockdown we haven't experienced issues here as yet, but travelling will be impacted."

Howe added that projects such as the quantum computer it designed for IBM involved weekly trips to Italy to liaise with manufacturers. "Something like this would definitely become more arduous under the new parameters," he said.

The UK officially withdrew from EU on the 31 January 2020 following 47 years of membership of the trading block. A transition agreement kept the UK in the European Single Market until 31 December 2020.

Brexit – a portmanteau of the words Britain and exit – is the name given to the UK's departure from the EU following the June 2016 referendum in which 52 per cent of votes were cast in favour of leaving the EU.

A survey of creative businesses conducted before the referendum found that 96 per cent of them did not want Brexit to happen.