This article appeared in New Civil Engineer (19 Sep) 

The water industry should not fear a no-deal Brexit, a senior Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) figure has claimed.

Following revelations of the details of Operation Yellowhammer, the codename used by the UK Treasury for cross-government civil contingency planning for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, Defra’s deputy director for water Margaret Read said the water industry should not be fearful.

When asked about the position of the water industry in the event of a no-deal scenario at New Civil Engineer’s Future of Water conference, Read said: “There is not anything to get worried about.

“The industry has been working with Defra since late last year to plan to keep the taps running and the wastewater to continue to be treated and taken away from people’s homes.

“The industry have been doing a really good job on that planning and they have been exercising regularly.

“So the water industry has stepped up and they have a statutory duty to deliver water and wastewater services and I expect they will continue to do so even if we leave the EU without a deal.”

Read’s assurances have come almost a year after government ministers were reportedly warned that leaving without a deal could create a clean water shortage since chemicals used in purification are imported to the UK from the EU.

Despite Read’s confidence, the prospect of a no-deal Brexit has sparked concern across the construction and engineering industries.

Just last month, the heads of five of the UK’s leading construction bodies together wrote to prime minister Boris Johnson warning that a no-deal Brexit could cost the construction industry upwards of £10bn by the end of 2020.

Hannah Vickers, chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE), Suzannah Nichol, chief executive of Build UK, Alasdair Reisner, chief executive of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), Peter Caplehorn, interim chief executive of the Construction Products Association (CPA) and Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) called on Johnson to agree to arrangements for trading with the EU as a ‘matter of urgency’.

The letter, which was sent to the PM as well as chancellor Sajid Javid, business secretary Andrea Leadsom, Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay and Michael Gove, who is heading up the government’s no deal planning, stateed that the sector could grow by £1.2bn if a deal is struck by the UK which would ensure a smooth exit from the European Union.

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