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Fashion Roundtable pens open letter to UK government for post Brexit support

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

1 Feb 2021

Fashion

Fashion Roundtable, a London-based thinktank committed to better government policy for the fashion industry, has written an open letter to call on the government to offer more support in dealing with issues which have arisen due to the Brexit deal.

Fashion Roundtable CEO Tamara Cincik said in the letter “the deal done with the EU has a gaping hole where promised free movement for goods and services for all creatives, including the fashion and textiles sector, should be.”

For an industry that employs nearly one million people and contributes 35 billion pounds to the UK Treasury, concerns regarding working abroad, shipping, customs charges, and fabric manufacturing remain unclear. The letter points out many anomalies and ongoing issues and raises the stark fact that the UK fishing industry, a smaller fish in comparison to fashion, was given a stimulus package of 23 million pounds to handle exports, which the fashion industry has received no such support.

The letter in full:

Dear Prime Minister, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture and Media, Secretary of State for Business and Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Home Secretary (for UK Border Agency regulations), We write to you as concerned members of the UK’s fashion and textile industry, an industry which contributes 35bn pounds to UK GDP and employs almost 1m people, but which is at real risk of decimation by the Brexit trade deal and current Government policy.

Ours is a thriving industry, based on global leadership, complex supply chains and above all a deeply interconnected relationship with our overseas colleagues. The UK’s fashion talent is world-class, and our sector touches many areas of our lives. There are many diverse businesses that make up the sector, from manufacturing, to digital online retail platforms, innovative, creative and brands to top-ranked fashion education in the world. We are highly regarded globally for events which bring business to the UK, such as London Fashion Week (visited recently by HM the Queen), as well as create jobs for those working in advertising, editorial, costumes for film, TV and musicians.

The deal done with the EU has a gaping hole where promised free movement for goods and services for all creatives, including the fashion and textiles sector, should be. The fashion and textiles industry is the largest component of the previously thriving UK creative industries, growing 11 percent annually, bringing vital jobs and innovation to the UK. We contribute more to UK GDP than fishing, music, film and motor industries combined. Yet we have been disregarded in this deal and our concerns overlooked in current policy decisions.This has significantly impacted our opportunity to build back better and grow our onshoring manufacturing, digital innovation and sustainable design and technology in the UK, where we now, more than ever, have the real chance to show global leadership.

Everyone working across the EU, our largest trading partner for imports and exports, will now need costly work permits for each of the member states they visit and a mountain of paperwork for their products and equipment. This is a step backwards and out of touch with the realities of how the sector works. From travelling to the EU for trade shows to large value shoots and shows happening here in the UK, red tape delays and costs are impacting our industry already, with work relocating to the EU, all impacting our opportunities to trade and travel. Like many, we heard the news that some UK brands might have to burn clothes stuck in the EU with horror.

The current deals with other non-EU territories do not allow for the same levels of business opportunity as we already enjoyed with the EU and many of the UK’s thriving 59,000 industry SMEs cannot afford the added costs of red tape experts, nor should they. We note that the Government has offered the fishing industry a 23m pound package to support their export business. Fishing contributes as much to the UK economy as East London does from the fashion and textile industry, employing the same workforce as just one of the many high street retailers currently facing liquidation. 176,718 jobs have been lost across the retail industry during the past year. Parity in support is vital if we are to save not only the 890,000 jobs across the UK fashion and textiles industry but also to show leadership in being the sustainable innovator we could be: timely with COP26 almost upon us.

For the sake of UK fashion brands needing to work across Europe and for and for UK shows and shoots wishing to host them, the deal should be reciprocal. UK Fashion businesses now need to have EU distributors which impact on margins. If they sell B2C online to EU customers, these customers are now charged with VAT, duties and handling fees amounting to an additional 30 percent on top of the product price, making them less likely to continue buying from UK brands. This will impact UK SMEs who cannot afford to pay EU distributors and use online sales platforms, the most.

For more information or to sign the open letter visit www.fashionroundtable.co.uk.

Image: London aerial via Pexels