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British Water survey reveals sector uncertainty following Brexit vote

Concerns about infrastructure funding, investment in research, and environmental regulation are among the issues raised by British Water members in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

Tony WilliamsTony Williams

The trade association said the results of a survey of its 185 members shows a great many unanswered questions following the result of the vote for the UK to leave the EU. A quarter of those who responded to the survey say they are highly pessimistic about what the future holds for the industry, while half say it is too early to say.

British Water Chairman Tony Williams said: “I think the survey results show there is still a lot of uncertainty about what the future will bring, following the vote to leave the European Union. Many British Water members have experience of working in different international markets with different regulatory regimes but the survey shows the industry is still looking for answers about the implications for post-Brexit Britain.”

The survey asked how optimistic respondents felt about the future, both in terms of their own companies and in terms of the water industry as a whole. In terms of how they expected the result to affect their own business, 42% were highly optimistic, 20% were highly pessimistic and 38% said it was too early to say.

When asked about the future implications for the industry as a whole only 25% said they felt very positive about the future, 25% said they felt very pessimistic and half of all those who responded said they were uncertain about what would happen after the UK left Europe.

British Water also asked its members what the UK government could do to protect their businesses when Britain leaves the EU. Funding for infrastructure projects, support for overseas trade, and clarification about the status of current and future environmental legislation, were all among concerns raised by respondents.

One respondent called on the government to assure the industry that “the current level of investment will continue”. Another suggested the government could negotiate to ensure that UK companies still had the right to bid for contracts paid for by European Bank for Reconstruction & Development funds.

The security of EU-funded projects was another issue, with respondents asking the government to ensure a similar level of funding was maintained in the future. Many respondents urged the government not to weaken environmental regulations relating to water and wastewater, and to ensure that the UK does not fall behind European standards of water quality and sanitation.

Several members also urged that the new UK-only regulatory regime should be properly enforced.

Several respondents asked that new trade agreements should be sorted out as soon as possible and that extra support should be available for UK companies wishing to do business with international markets, both in Europe and beyond.

Williams said: “It is clear that our members have some very real concerns, about funding for major infrastructure, about environmental legislation and regulation, and about support for international trade. British Water will do everything it can to ensure that the voice of the water industry is heard as the UK government tackles the practical implications of the vote to leave the EU.”

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