Brexit is the hot topic on everyone’s lips, no more so than for those who love to talk politics. But even if you’re not interested in politics, the British exit from the European Union has the potential to affect each and every one of us, in ways we might not even have imagined. The UK fashion industry is starting to tremble at the thoughts of a no deal Brexit, which could mean disruptions to imports as well as losing access to established and up and coming talent internationally.
The True Cost Of Brexit
The fashion industry will be hit hard when it comes to importing fabrics and materials and they haven’t been shy about vocalizing their concerns. The lack of clarity as to where major retailers and those in the luxury industry lie in terms of their future relationship with the EU is not only adding to these uncertain times but is also frustrating. It’s understandable that the UK want to spend time on achieving the best possible deal however this in-between stage of no mans land isn’t without its problems either. Businesses have no idea what will happen to the currency once Brexit hits and so it feels for them that they are balancing on a cliff edge; a no deal Brexit being the cliff they’re about to be thrown over. The consistent uncertainty is making it impossible for businesses to plan ahead or even try to combat the negative effects of a no deal Brexit since it could swing either way. It won’t come as a shock to know that a staggering 96% of those in the industry living in the UK voted to remain according to Fashion Roundtable.
We all know the importance of shopping local and supporting small businesses but these types of enterprises within the industry have no hope when global giants such as ASOS and Boohoo are issuing profit warnings and falling below their growth forecasts. This, of course, has a knock on effect as investors are reluctant to continue supporting the industry as it declines.
Ethical Practices Stretched To The Limit
Access to skilled workers in the EU could be cut if not be made much more difficult, Visas may have to be in place for EU nationals who already work in the UK and may be impossible to obtain for those who are wanted for jobs in the UK. A lot of discussion has taken place over the free movement of people and how the system will operate for EU nationals and British nationals who want or need to work abroad, yet nothing has been put down in writing and the deed signed – therefore nothing can be counted on.
If Britain makes it an unendurable task to employ people from the EU, they will undoubtedly look elsewhere. There is already such a large problem with manufacturing costs being unbeatably low in developing countries and the issues of illegal sweatshops and unethical practices in these workplaces but unfortunately, we can only see this multiplying in the result of a no deal Brexit. The knock on effect to this is of course that shopping ethically will become relatively impossible and raise the prices significantly on any product that is in fact ethically produced.
Forget Panic Buying, It’s All About Panic Stockpiling
Many brands have already begun to stockpile their collections in the hopes of avoiding shipping delays and high import tariffs later in the year. With British fashion currently at the forefront of the industry, we could see a serious setback in their position in the industry with new trends and styles not reaching Britain until it’s too late to market. Britain might not be able to keep up with the pace of changing trends and getting those clothes to market in time so it wouldn’t be a far leap to consider how that will affect their title as one of the big four when it comes to fashion capitals and holding their place at London Fashion Week.
Overall, a no deal Brexit would be the worst case scenario for the fashion industry, resulting in a sharp rise in import fees, worker shortages, unemployment for skilled workers across Europe and Britain, delays on shipping goods and further devaluation of the British Pound which would affect trends in consumer spending.
British Fashion Council Weighs In
After repeatedly discussing just how much of a negative affect Brexit, nevermind a No Deal Brexit could have on the fashion industry, the BFC have finally taken a stance against the dreaded debate. They have announced their support for a “people’s vote” in order to try and combat the looming effects, which really means they’re showing support for having another referendum on whether Brexit should actually go ahead, now that the British people have a fuller, more honest view point of what Britain will look like post Brexit.
The reasons the fashion industry, BFC in particular, are worried about the negative impact on the sector are pretty clear and understandable considering the $38 billion dollar price tag placed on the British fashion industry. With a no deal Brexit, it appears the fashion industry will suffer greatly, for now we’ll just have to hope others follow in the British Fashion Council’s footsteps and make a stand for a people’s vote too.
Article Commissioned by Mod'Art University of Shanghai