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Report urges simplified post-Brexit trade

Adrian Wilson

Confidence in the UK as a supply base has fallen sharply in Europe.

12th July 2023

Adrian Wilson
 |  London


A new report has been published examining the impact of Brexit on the fashion, textile and technology (FTT) ecosystem in the UK and offering five key recommendations to support future growth.

The report has been jointly published by the Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT) led by the University of the Arts London and the Future Fashion Factory (FFF) led by the University of Leeds, with UKFT CEO Adam Mansell as chair of the project.

“The UK’s departure from the EU was the biggest change in the global trading environment in decades,” Mansell said. “With the EU accounting for 75% of the UK’s fashion and textile exports and over 30% of the sector’s imports, the implications of the change in the relationship were always going to be hugely significant.

“Despite the rhetoric, the UK EU Trade Continuity Agreement was not the simplest trade deal ever negotiated. The reality is – and was always going to be – a new trading relationship with significant administrative burdens, with a large increase in costs and with more limited movement of people and product.

“Confidence in the UK as a supply base has fallen sharply with many European companies declining to do business with UK brands due to the new trading difficulties. These difficulties are likely to increase with development of the EU’s ambitious and comprehensive textile sustainability strategy. The strategy will see a dramatic increase in legislation requiring better monitoring and reporting for all fashion and textiles sold in the EU and will apply to UK suppliers.

“This report highlights many of the ongoing issues faced by the UK fashion and textile industry, particularly those SMEs and micro businesses who make up over 80% of the industry. However, the report also highlights the resilience and adaptability of UK fashion and textile companies when faced with challenges such as Brexit and Covid-19.

 “Innovation, a highly skilled workforce and a relentless focus on sustainability will be the key drivers for any successful industry and the UK fashion and textile sector has all of those. Through projects such as the BFTT and the FFF the industry also benefits from increased support and investment from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). So, despite the considerable challenges the industry faces it is also a time of great optimism with significant opportunities for sustainable growth.”

The report proposes five key recommendations to support the growth and prosperity of the UK fashion, textile and technology (FTT) industry in the UK:

- Reduce the cost and complexity of trade post-Brexit, to increase access to global markets and improve competitiveness, particularly for start-ups and SMEs through tax breaks, transparency and clear guidelines.

- Grow capacity and competency of the FTT sector to reduce carbon footprint and create employment opportunities, through business development support, government subsidies, grants and incentives, training, and visa programmes for skilled workers.

- Build resilience post-Covid-19 through agility, flexibility and diversification to protect the financial sustainability of FTT businesses, through business guidance, mentorship and training.

- Drive digital innovation in the FTT sector, to increase capacity, efficiency and sustainability e.g. through increased access to digital tools and training, particularly for start-ups and SMEs.

- Prioritise sustainable and ethical practices to address the climate crisis, improve health and equity for all through legislation, government incentives and grants, investment in infrastructure, accreditation and business guidance.

The report can be accessed in full here.

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