a ‘no deal’ brexit could really fuck up british fashion

Thanks for nothing, Boris.

by Douglas Greenwood
02 September 2019, 4:07pm

With Boris Johnson now sitting smugly as Prime Minister in 10 Downing Street (a scenario that pretty much embodies the dog-in-the-burning-room ‘This is fine’ meme) and the Queen approving the temporary shutdown of Parliament to supposedly smooth out the process of leaving the EU, the reality of a no deal Brexit seems to be setting in. The British people, understandably, aren’t happy.

Like the vast majority of politics today, it all appears disturbing, but the British public have fought back against the government’s plans to drag us out of the European Union with no deal, protesting across the country this past weekend.

One of the industries that’s set to be hit the hardest is fashion, and the British Fashion Council have issued a stark warning to the government highlighting just how detrimental dropping out of the EU would be for the industry.

Statistics provided by the BFC show that the fashion industry employs more than 890,000 people (the same number of people working in finance) and is worth £32 billion to the UK GDP. Dropping out of the EU without a trade deal would mean we would switch to trading under World Trade Organisation rules, a move that'd cost the industry up to £900 million. Small and medium sized fashion enterprises (which the BFC call SME for short) would suffer the most.

This means that, while the big high street chains and luxury labels would be able to take the knock, it would be tragic for small British labels who rely on international trade and are constantly working with suppliers from outside of the UK. Heck, some of Britain’s best young designers have their most beloved audiences thousands of miles away.

There are a bunch of complex new rules that would essentially make running a fashion-based SME super difficult. There are plans to introduce a 24-hour warning rule, so that any designers shipping their work elsewhere would have to give Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs a day’s notice before shipping it out (read: a massive pain in the arse). There’s also the issue of samples for shoots and styling. Right now we can whisk things to and fro without a hitch. A no deal Brexit would leave many vulnerable to tariffs and VAT charges -- the kind that many young designers can’t afford.

But the biggest issue lies beyond money, and that’s talent. Right now, London is a hotbed for emerging designers that come to the capital -- and other major cities -- from across the globe to study fashion. They segue into jobs at big design houses, or start their own labels using the UK as a hub. The BFC have been offered the chance to be ‘independent assessors’ for ‘Exceptional Talents’, essentially handing them the opportunity to push for majorly talented designers from outside the UK to reside here. But what happens to those in skilled jobs in the industry? The pattern cutters, assistants and machinists? If their current income is below £30k (and it’s the creative industries, so that’s the majority of people), they risk being refused the right to work here.

The whole thing is an absolute shit show that is set to stall the British fashion industry. So what can we do to save it? Well, let’s start by stopping Boris and co proroguing Parliament to make the idea of 'no deal' a little less likely. A petition in support of that has over 1.7 million signatures already. Maybe it’s time to add yours too.