UK fashion industry warns of 'decimation' over Brexit red tape

Model Twiggy poses for photographers at the Fashion Awards 2016 in London, Britain on 5 December 2016. Photo: Neil Hall/Reuters
Model Twiggy poses for photographers at the Fashion Awards 2016 in London, Britain on 5 December 2016. Photo: Neil Hall/Reuters

The UK fashion industry is calling on the government to take action as it faces “decimation” as a result of the hurdles of red tape and travel restrictions brought in by the post-Brexit trade agreement with the EU.

In an open letter to prime minister Boris Johnson, co-signed by 400 individuals including the likes of former supermodel Twiggy, and Yasmin Le Bon, industry heads warned that Brexit was wreaking havoc in the complex international supply chains and relationships that underpin the industry.

The letter said that the industry, worth £35bn ($48bn), has left a “gaping hole” where the promised free movement of goods and services for all creatives should be.

It said: “The fashion and textiles industry is the largest component of the previously thriving UK creative industries, growing 11% 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.”

The letter urges the government to rescind its decision to stop the VAT Retail Export Scheme. It says it is forecast to impact all UK retailers who sell to tourists at a loss of more than £3.5bn worth of tax-free retail sales and up to 41,000 jobs.

“This will not only impact our retailers but also impact on tourism and travel, both industries who will need support post-pandemic,” it said.

Responding to the letter, a government spokesperson said: "We are working closely with businesses in the fashion industry to ensure they get the support they need to trade effectively with Europe, and seize new opportunities as we strike trade deals with the world's fastest growing markets."

"We are aware that some businesses are facing challenges with specific aspects of our new trading relationship with the EU. To this end, we are operating export helplines, running webinars with policy experts and offering businesses support via our network of 300 international trade advisers. This is on top of the millions we have invested to expand the customs intermediaries sector.”

READ MORE: Music industry hits out at government's post-Brexit visa blunder

Concerns follow those expressed by the music industry about the need for working visas for touring musicians.

Earlier this month, music industry bosses have hit out at news that the UK government rejected an offer of visa-free tours by musicians to EU countries.

The Independent first reported last night that a “standard” proposal exempting performers from extra costs and bureaucracy for 90 days was turned down, because the UK would not offer a reciprocal deal to EU artists visiting this country.

The Musicians’ Union said it had been assured by ministers for many months that the creative arts and music industry in particular was a priority. It said the government would put it “front-of-mind during discussions with the EU.”

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