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What Brexit means for smart cities and the security sector

What Brexit means for smart cities and the security sector
Brexit. The dreaded word that just refuses to go away. Over the last few years, much has been said about the challenges after the U.K. leaves EU, but as we “appear” to reach the end of the line, it seems an uncertain future is what worries businesses most. According to Memoori, the actual departure of the U.K. from the EU is not the problem, nor does an EU without the U.K. necessarily mean the U.K. economy will suffer.

“Yes, there will be challenges, but any post-Brexit U.K. government would work extremely hard to smooth the transition, building trade connections with Europe and around the world, and may still create greater prosperity from its new-found freedom,” the research firm noted. “However, right now, the only certainty is uncertainty and that will continue to damage the smart building sector and the wider U.K. economy until there is a clear path.”

What Brexit means for smart city projects

The U.K.’s smart city projects are considered some of the best in the world. However, ahead of Brexit, there are concerns over how the country will cope with a lack of skilled labor and lower funding.

The Smart Cities Council Europe, in a recent post, gave the example of the city of Leeds, which is placed fifth in terms of smart health initiatives in the country. As part of a long-term plan called “Getting Leeds Working,” Yorkshire’s largest city has created an Innovation Health Hub that acts as an open platform for health care data. This is being used for initiatives such as an innovation lab, health-related mobile applications, a digital teleconferencing center, and a clinical training and simulation center.

“While Leeds joins the ranks of top smart cities across the U.K. like London and Bristol in terms of its successful approach to smart health care, it may also be one of the hardest hit by Brexit, which could affect its role and support as a partner in projects like ACTIVAGE (part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program), which offers independent living support and personal health monitoring,” the council noted.

Apart from the loss of European funds, these smart cities could also face a labor shortage. Both the NHS and the social care sector are heavily dependent on professionals from other EU nations. About 62,000 of the NHS’s 1.2 million workforce, and 95,000 of the 1.3 million workers in the social care sector are from overseas. According to the Office of Budget Responsibility in the U.K., the country will lose a staggering 50 percent of its EU workforce post-Brexit.

Memoori also gave the example of Nottingham, which was selected as one of the “lighthouse cities” of the European REgeneration MOdel for accelerating the smart URBAN transformation (REMOURBAN) project. The project aims to retrofit hundreds of social and private housing with energy-efficient smart technology to reduce energy bills and the impact on the environment.

“After Brexit was announced, we have been asked to reevaluate all of our internal budgets,” said Emily Braham, head of Sustainable Energy at Nottingham City Homes told Memoori. Braham believes the budget for the REMOURBAN project “will be safe, but other projects may suffer.” Others, like Vinicius Valente, communication advisor at renewables association EUREC, also point out that “it is unclear if, post-Brexit, the contracts will be honored with EU-money or British money.”

What Brexit means for the security industry

The problem of labor shortages extends to the security industry as well. Yair Daren, the Israeli-born owner of Security Risk Specialists, explained in a recent post on LinkedIn that ensuring their highly trained staff were able to remain in the U.K. was a major concern.

“Many of our workforces are highly trained, foreign workers,” he said. “It is likely that people will need new documentation to work in the U.K. and this isn’t going to be straightforward. If you currently employ EU workers, you should ensure that they have the right to work in the U.K. and have all the necessary visas and checks in place for non-EU Nationals.”

Daren added that the security industry in the U.K. has long been accused of employing poorly trained personnel for low pay. This had changed after companies began to seek SIA accreditation and provide adequate training to staff.

“In the light of recent terrorist attacks in the U.K., such as the Westminster attack and the bombing at the Manchester Arena, it is frightening that there is a possibility of a return to poorly motivated guards with insufficient training,” Daren said. “This is a truly worrying future.”

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