The UK’s post-Brexit relationship with Europe and the need to attract skilled labour from overseas were highlighted by outgoing FETA Chairman, Graham Wright (pictured), during the Association’s annual lunch in London on April 27th. Mr Wright announced that he will be succeeded as Chairman by John Smith of the British Refrigeration Association. Here is Mr Wright’s speech in full.
In the wake of the EU referendum there has been much political activity, both within the UK and beyond, and endless speculation as to how things may develop – indeed it is barely a week ago since FETA’s local MP called a General Election. The scale of the challenge is of course enormous and our stance has been to retain a pragmatic position, encouraging the Government to proceed with caution and to consult fully with industry before changing any of the previously agreed legislation.
There will be many subjects to consider as we move towards a different relationship with both the European Union collectively and its member nations individually. At FETA we believe that in the post-EU landscape, trade associations can provide an even more vital line of communication with the rest of Europe on important issues such as energy use regulations and product design.
FETA has been present at many meetings of European committees and pan-European associations, all aiming to help shape the plethora of policies, directives and regulations that have impact on our sector, either now or in the future. These include F Gas, Energy Labelling, Ecodesign, Materials Directive to name but a few. Regulations are not always greeted enthusiastically by business and industry, but FETA and its members recognise the general good intentions behind them. The emphasis on sustainability and environmental issues is important for us and future generations. Energy efficient products and buildings will help ensure we have security of energy supply in the years to come.
With this in mind, FETA feels that it is now very important for the UK Government to continue with its measured approach to any changes in this legislative landscape, and this includes the need to attract skilled labour from overseas too.
Many products used in UK buildings are manufactured elsewhere in Europe, and to require different standards for the UK market would only add to manufacturing costs and hence the price. We do not want to see either consumers or businesses facing higher costs because our legislation does not keep in step with the rest of Europe. It is to everybody’s benefit this underlying philosophy is supported.
From an environmental standpoint, the UK’s departure from the EU should not spell an end to the existing initiatives that encourage the uptake of renewable technologies. Schemes such as the Renewable Heat Incentive and the Enhanced Capital Allowance should be retained and promoted further. We will doubtless hear all sorts of strident rhetoric from various sources but we will continue to caution the government against stoking the fires of populist opinion by having a “bonfire of Red Tape Regulations”: the result would, both literally and metaphorically, be bad for climate change and air quality!
Whatever happens in the coming years, staying abreast of developments in legislation across the EU will be very important to UK firms. Trade associations are well-placed to have a significant role in this. Having spent a long time establishing good relationships with technical committees in a number of fields, FETA is well-placed to maintain those connections. Our objective, post-Brexit, is to ensure that member companies continue to have access to a flow of information on what is happening with regard to product design, refrigerant use or fan motors – or any of the other important technical issues that affect our manufacturer and installer memberships.
FETA historically has worked closely with a wide range of ISO, CEN and BSI committees, offering sound and technically unbiased advice to guide committees and set standards. It is our intention that this work should continue and indeed be strengthened. It may have escaped your notice but there has been a proliferation of standards that focus on building design, alignment with EU regulations, the adoption of new refrigerants supporting both the F-gas regulation and the changes to the Montreal protocol, and technology changes that support the continued innovation of our market sector.
None of this happens by optimistic osmosis and I want to publicly pay tribute to our industry experts who so selflessly give of their time to engage in this often detailed and highly technical work. Their passion for their subject areas shines through and they are a credit to engineering.
On the subject of professional engineering I would also like to thank all of our members who have contributed to driving forward everything to do with recruiting and retaining the next generation. Whether it is in setting Trailblazer Apprenticeship standards or supporting our first Arkwright Trust scholar we know that we should all play a part in this and learn from their example.
We continue to work closely with a number of government departments. We appreciate how much pressure they are under at the moment and look forward to working ever more closely with them to get sensible outcomes in what are by any standards very challenging political circumstances. But we recognise that they have to deal with a great variety of stakeholders – and to that end I would also like to mention that we are fortunate to have with us a number of guests from institutes and associations within our sector with whom we have very close links: we are all cognisant of the need to speak with one voice and that is a subject you will be hearing more about in the coming year.
FETA – the Federation of Environmental Trade Associations – is the recognised UK body representing the interests of over 400 manufacturers, suppliers, installers and contractors within the heating, ventilating, building controls, refrigeration & air conditioning industry to policy makers and the wider public.