“Since Brexit, sales to EU countries have rapidly declined,” says Rachael Attwood Hamard, the managing director of Britannical.
The luxury children’s clothing brand is just one member of the UK’s £35bn fashion industry, which is warning that gaps in the Brexit trade deal could be devastating for businesses from retail and manufacturing to modelling and design talent.
Complex VAT charges and handling fees now in place have led shoppers in Europe to stop ordering or to reject deliveries. Some brands and retailers have ceased selling across the Channel because it is no longer profitable.
Veteran designer Katharine Hamnett warns “British brands will die” without a “radical overhaul” of customs arrangements with the EU, including VAT rules.
Sandal-maker Álvaro says the European market is “now practically shut” because of the new tax regime, while it had waited more than seven weeks for a shipment of components to a supplier in Florence held up by paperwork.
Tamara Cincik, chief executive of Fashion Roundtable, which organised an open letter to the government last week – signed by more than 450 industry members – said: “Pre-pandemic [the UK fashion industry] was growing 11% year on year. But there is a real risk of it being utterly decimated from the gaps in the Brexit trade deal and UK government policy.”
Additional red tape and taxes plus restrictions on travel in Europe for work risk an exodus of talent.
UK manufacturers and designers say they have suffered delays and additional costs on shipping materials, samples or components to and from Europe.
Meanwhile, the UK’s model industry, worth about £250m, fears losing talent and bookings because of the paperwork now involved in travelling to work. John Horner, the boss of Models 1, said a quarter of his business comes from Europe, and that was now at risk, with many other agencies set to lose out even more.
The fishing industry is a tiny part of the UK economy, worth about 0.02% of the total, but its huge symbolic value meant it was a key factor in negotiating the Brexit trade deal.
In announcing the deal on Christmas Eve, Boris Johnson hailed it as a triumph for the sector. “For the first time since 1973, we will be an independent coastal state with full control of our waters,” he said.
But in the past few weeks, UK fishers have talked of betrayal as they came up against new customs arrangements. Sales to European markets – which accounted for nearly half the UK fishing fleet’s total catch in 2019 – stalled, and the price of many species plummeted, forcing boats to tie up in harbour or land their catches in EU ports.
Scottish fishers have landed their catches in Denmark in order to avoid bureaucracy, and many are selling less than 10% of their normal trade. Ian Perkes, a fish exporter based in Brixham in Devon, told NBC he had lost thousands of pounds in sales because of red tape.
Delays have been a critical issue for highly perishable produce. One Welsh shellfish exporter told the BBC that a lorry containing nearly £50,000 of lobsters, prawns and crabs had been delayed by 30 hours en route to Spain.
An extra complication for shellfish exporters is the EU’s requirement that “live bivalve molluscs” – including mussels, oysters, scallops and clams – can be imported from non-EU states only if they come from the highest-quality waters. This has become an issue since the UK left the EU.
After UK fish exporters travelled to Westminster to protest, warning that their livelihoods were threatened, the government announced a £23m compensation scheme. One trade group described it as a “sticking plaster”.
In 2018, there were about 12,000 fishers in the UK and the sector was worth £784m.
International tours stopped with the pandemic, along with all live public performances, but Brexit now puts their return in question.
The calendar of gigs, concerts and festivals was a financial motor for an industry that contributed £5.8bn to the economy in 2019. But new regulations and costs are prohibitive for emerging talent and for lower-paid orchestral musicians, according to many performers.
Visas, work permits and instrument carnets required for EU countries mean more paperwork and costs each trip. The changes also affect the wider industry, which supports the income of…