How Brexit has Impacted the British Fashion Sector and What We Can Do About it

Brexit impact on fashion industry Kate Hills Rachel Walker Tamara Cincik
L to R: Rachel Walker (LLUK), Kate Hills (Make it British), Tamara Cincik (Fashion Roundtable)

On the 31st January 2024, Make it British, along with Fashion Roundtable, hosted an industry-focused roundtable discussion with Baroness Jane Bonham-Carter – the Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson for Culture Media and Sport, as well as the Liberal Democrat Creative Network and the Liberal Democrat DCMS Parliamentary Group. 

Chaired by Fashion Roundtable’s CEO, Tamara Cincik, as well as Charles Brand, the Chair of the Liberal Democrat Creative Network, Make it British founder Kate Hills gave evidence, along with Alexander Wills – Founder of digital textile printers Maake; Rachel Walker – Founder of UK textile firm Luxury Lockstitch and representatives from the Royal College of Art, UKFT, Models 1 and Value Retail.

The purpose of the roundtable was to discuss the main challenges that post-Brexit agreements were posing to the British fashion sector, providing an opportunity for the top-line issues of Brexit to be heard. 

With the majority of the UK manufacturing sector made up of SMEs, the roundtable heard that Brexit has compounded a skills shortage. Issues of freedom of movement in both goods as well as talent are having a massive impact on the sector, and tourism and hospitality have been impacted due to the removal of the UK VAT Retail Scheme. 

Tamara Cincik, CEO, Fashion Roundtable said: 

“The impacts of Brexit have always been well understood by the fashion industry, who since Fashion Roundtable’s inception, have consistently told us the issues they face and the impacts this is having on the sector, from the loss of reputation, to the severity of the delays and cost of red tape, as well as unilateral decisions by the UK Government to end the lucrative VAT Retail Export Scheme, which Sylvie Freud-Pickance cited could generate £10bn in terms of sales, hospitality and tourism for the UK economy and rebuild the UK’s reputation, as Paris not London is now the number 1 tourist destination of choice within Europe, impacting sales, spend and jobs.”

Kate Hills – CEO of Make it British said: 

“UK garment and textile manufacturing is made up of thousands of micro businesses, and these roundtables are essential to get the voices of those businesses heard. Brexit has had a huge impact on our industry, from the loss of free movement of raw materials and finished goods between the UK and the EU, to the skilled sewing staff who have gone back home to Europe never to return.”

Baroness Jane Bonham-Carter the Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson for Culture Media and Sport said:

“Yesterday’s presentation of the serious issues facing the Fashion Industry highlighted not only the self-inflicted damage caused by post Brexit regulations but also a serious growing skills shortage. The Liberal Democrats will redouble efforts to highlight ways that the Government could undo some of the damage done.”

Charles Brand, the Chair of the Liberal Democrat Creative Network said: 

“Yesterday’s briefing meeting organised by the Fashion Roundtable and Make It British, laid out the shocking damage done by post Brexit regulations and the associated skills shortages to what was until recently a world beating expanding industry. We will work to publicise the need for the Government to urgently focus on coming up with solutions.”