More than 400 leading figures in the fashion industry are calling on the government for help following post-Brexit red tape and travel restrictions.
The open letter to the Prime Minister comes from respected icons, including model Twiggy and Patrick Grant, judge on the Great British Sewing Bee.
Complex international supply chains and relationships have been ‘strangled’ under the new restrictions.
“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,” they wrote in the letter fronted by Fashion Roundtable, an industry forum.
“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.”
Fashion Roundtable wants the government to add garment workers to the list of ‘shortage occupations’ for UK visas to help fill thousands of vacancies in UK clothing factories. It’s also calling for UK tax breaks to encourage sustainable practices and negotiations for paper-free travel for British creatives and their equipment in the EU.
It also renewed calls on the government to reconsider its decision to scrap the Retail Export Scheme, where international visitors could reclaim 20 per cent of VAT on their own purchases, but this ended on January 1 2021.
The letter argues that fashion is worth more to UK GDP than the fishing, music, film and motoring industries combined The industry is estimated to be worth 1.6 per cent of UK GDP. To put that into context, fashion makes up around 0.8 per cent of German GDP.
Many of the 59,000 fashion industry SMEs affected couldn’t afford the ‘red tape experts’ they needed to get to grips with the new rules. Customers in both the EU and the UK have refused orders because of unforeseen tariffs and VAT charges.
The Cabinet Office said that it is working closely with fashion businesses facing challenges in this new trading climate.
“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 operating export helplines, running webinars with policy experts and offering businesses support via our network of 300 international trade advisers,” a spokesperson said. “This is on top of the millions we have invested to expand the customs intermediaries sector.”