Brexit deal will come at a cost for UK fashion


For 5 stormy years, the UK and Europe settled a trade agreement at the end of 2020 that would see the beginning of Brexit with a new consensus.

Under the agreement, tariff and quota-free traded goods traded after December 31, with the exclusion of the services industry. The services contain 80% of the UK economy, with fashion businesses, where models, castings, show and event producers, photographers and any fashion professional might face movement barriers when doing business across the EU and vice versa.

Figure: The agreement will see tariff and quota-free traded goods after December 31, with the exception of the services industry.

London no longer a hub

Till today, London is been a hub for fashion models, photographers and brands: shooting campaigns, look books and advertising by having a schedule of international creatives available who could come to the UK without interruption. This will no longer be likely in the new year.

Financial Times wrote, “London’s role as a talent hub for the global fashion industry will take a substantial hit as a result of new immigration rules being imposed after the Brexit transition period, according to several leading modeling agencies.”

“New visa requirements to enable British and EU models to work in each other’s countries after the ending of EU free movement on January 1 will reduce the attractiveness of London for models, stylists and photographers working in the industry,” it adds.

Fashion creatives coming to the UK will now need tier 5 sponsorship or a visa, which may take a longer time for the Home Office to process.

The positive news is the agreement is the first the EU has ever reached permitting zero tariffs and zero quotas. For the EU, reaching a deal evades toxic relations with a key diplomatic and commercial neighbor for years, and offers a basis for further cooperation in the future.

Good neighbors, not partners

The thing is that the fashion industry is not a sovereign business activity that can flourish without international partners. From garment manufacturing to exporting, catwalk to closet, styling to sourcing and designing to development, the apparel fashion industry is one of the most globalized trades, with shipments often designed in one country, produced in another and sold in another.

For instance, a British fashion company may source its fabrics in China or the EU, have the garments manufactured and finished in Bangladesh and shipped to a warehouse in the UK for distribution to retail outlets globally.

Surely, this supply-chain of production will be delayed, if the buyer sourcing requires a visa to enter the EU or if the company is dependent on services from outside of the UK.

The bottom line will be the challenges imposed and the effects they have on pricing, timing and competitiveness.