What will the UK General Election and Brexit negotiations mean for the fashion supply chain?

By Kate Berry and Sally Blaxall, QHQ Ltd.

With the UK general election right around the corner, the fashion industry is waiting and wondering what it will mean for future trade deals, both within and outside the EU. In this time of uncertainty, industry bodies such as the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT) are offering crucial support to the industry and advising on strategy for future governments.

According to Helen Dickinson, CEO, British Retail Consortium: “Political stability will be crucial to negotiating the best deal for the UK in the Brexit negotiations. Britain’s exit from the EU will have a profound impact on the goods that Britain imports, the products that UK consumers buy and the prices they pay. The retail industry will want to see plans from the next government that puts consumers first in the Brexit negotiations and ensures that ordinary shoppers aren’t hit with the cost of unwanted new tariffs.”

Just last week, The British Retail Consortium launched a post-Brexit ‘Tariff Roadmap’ for the next Government, hoping for a fair Brexit for consumers.

The BRC believes stability and fair tariffs will ensure a better future: “The retail industry is a driving force in our economy. Political and economic stability, and a business tax environment fit for purpose in the 21st century, is what’s needed for the retail industry to drive productivity with better jobs, innovation and new skills for the digital age,” Helen Dickinson.

The BRC initiative aims to help the new government nurture import trade relationships within the EU and maximise setting up new and beneficial relationships with other nations for the future. Currently, half of all imports come in to the UK from countries with no existing trade deals. The BRC hopes that countries such as India and China, who could see a tariff reduction of up to 12% which would impact positively on the supply chains of many UK fashion retailers.

The BRC is suggesting a three pronged approach: “The first step is to mitigate the risks by securing the continuation of tariff-free trade with the EU, to avoid further upward pressure on food prices. Next, is the need to replicate the EU’s existing deals with developing countries. Only then, should the Government look to realise the opportunities presented by new trading relationships with the rest of the world.”

In October 2016, The Make it British Forum took place, where 250 industry people, ranging from fashion students, to designers, CEOs and factory owners, met together to discuss how they could support British Manufacturing in the future. Their aim was to create a post-Brexit plan to which would rediscover the UK’s manufacturing heritage, re-open factories and invest in the future. 

According to Adam Mansell, CEO of UKFT, which supported the Make It British Forum, the UK fashion and textile industry generates £8.2 billion worth of export, and £9 billion worth of textiles are currently made every year in the UK.  Adam says: “UK manufacturing is enjoying a great renaissance, helped by the growth in the cost benefits of re-shoring, the sustainability agenda and the latest government statistics show that last year manufacturing employment in the UK rose for the first time in decades.”

Kate Berry, Director of QHQ Ltd, industry leaders in technical consultancy for retailers and their supply chain, has substantial experience of working with British manufacturers, global retailers and international suppliers.

Kate: “For British Manufacturing, it is vital that the Brexit deal includes the continued opportunity for international talent to work within Europe and the UK without restriction. The Fashion Industry is one of the most globalised industries in the world and Europe is home to leading global retailers and international brands. The industry currently thrives on the movement of talent, ideas and innovation. QHQ regularly work with global designers, brands and suppliers and we hope to see a future where international opportunities increase.”