Feb 2, 2021
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UK fashion risks 'decimation' due to Brexit say fashion insiders in open letter to PM

Feb 2, 2021

Brexit is devastating the British fashion industry and action needs to be taken now as bureaucracy and travel issues since Britain finally left the EU have caused big problems for business. Fashion is “at real risk of decimation”, a key industry body and some of the most creative individuals in the sector have said.

Brexit is causing huge damage to the British fashion industry - Photo: Public domain/Pixabay

Over 400 people signed an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson demanding action.

Spearheaded by industry forum Fashion Roundtable, signatories include retailers, designers, models and model agency bosses, creatives, photographers, stylists and more. On the list are Matchesfashion co-founder Ruth Chapman, Katharine Hamnett, Jasmine Guinness, Roksanda Ilincic, Ashish Gupta, Caroline Issa, Jefferson Hack, Jane Shepherdson, Alice Temperley, Juergen teller, Nick Knight, Richard Malone, Twiggy, Yasmin Le Bon, Caryn Franklin, Patrick Grant and many more.

The letter said the industry has been “disregarded in this deal and our concerns overlooked in current policy decisions. We call on the government to stand by their commitment to frictionless work travel for British creatives, including the fashion and textile industry and their equipment."

It added: “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.”

The group is calling for garment workers to be added to the list of those ‘shortage occupations’ that will be able to get UK visas to help fill thousands of staffing gaps that can’t be plugged by British residents. They’re also seeking tax breaks designed to boost sustainable practices.

And of course, a reversal of the decision to scrap the Retail Export Scheme is also on their wishlist. Retailers and brands are extremely concerned that the UK will miss out on the tourism recovery that should set in next year following the government making it harder for tourists to claim back their VAT on fashion purchases.

While the fashion industry isn’t the only one asking the government for extra concessions at the moment, it feels it has a strong case given that it accounts for 1.6% of UK gross domestic product (GDP) while the equivalent industry in Germany only accounts for 0.8% of that country’s GDP. With a value of around £35 billion (€40bn/$48bn) and employing nearly a million people, UK fashion is worth more than the fishing, music, film and car industries combined. Given how some of those industries were much talked about as part of the Brexit negotiations, it's understandable how fashion feels it's being unfairly overlooked.

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