November and December Political Intelligence
Approaching the end of November, we were posed with a difficult question: do we try and take the shocking events of that month and leave several unanswered questions going into December? Or do we batten down the hatches and review the end of year once the Christmas festivities have died down?
We chose the latter, albeit without it now yielding any of the answers we were searching for at the end of November.
Fashion in Parliament – Latest News
Future Immigration Debate – In December, we worked with Dr Lisa Cameron MP (SNP, East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow), the Chair of the Fashion and Textiles APPG that we provide the secretariat for, on the questions that fashion needs to ask in the future immigration debate. As many know, our industry relies on freedom of movement in order to provide the flexibility that shows, shoots and clients require. The Home Secretary committed to the industry in the Immigration White Paper and complimented fashion and the creative industries for their role in Britain’s economy.
Immigration White Paper – Long-awaited, the Government and Home Office published it’s immigration white paper in December, surrounded by the Brexit storm. In many senses it is business as usual for the industry for those looking to come and work in the UK, with ‘exceptional talent’ highlighted as a new field based on the current system. The impetus is on flexibility and this is welcomed. It is yet to be seen exactly what the landscape will be for UK workers seeking access to the EU after March.
International Trade Questions – Two Members of Parliament raised trade and the creative industries in November: Bambos Charalambous (Lab, Enfield, Southgate) and Sandy Martin (Lab, Ipswich). They were questioning what work was being put into ensuring that there was reciprocity in terms of regulation and moving products/goods necessary to business, across borders. The Trade Secretary made clear that there objective was liberalisation not only for the EU, but for the rest of the world. He highlighted that in 2016, Britain exported £40.2 billion of goods and services, it is therefore clear that ours is a wider sector high up the trade agenda.
Dame Glenda Bailey – The esteemed editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar US has been awarded a DBE for services to the GREAT Britain campaign, and UK prosperity, charity, fashion and journalism. Congratulations to Dame Glenda, it is great to see fashion journalism recognised in the New Year Honours.
The Environmental Audit Committee Sustainability of the Fashion Industry Inquiry - after hearing from sustainability experts and campaigners, fast fashion retail bosses and relevant MPs and ministers, the EAC will be releasing their report and recommendations in 2019, which will require a response from government. Fashion Roundtable have closely followed and attended the evidence sessions, and counted with the participation John McNally MP and Committee Specialist Nicholas Davies at our Fashion and Sustainability roundtable, held in the Houses of Parliament.
Brexit – Where are we now?
As we are well through the ‘100 days to go’ point, there are three self-perpetuating challenges that face the UK Parliament: there is no Parliamentary majority for the deal negotiated by the Government, there is no time or European appetite to renegotiate, Parliament has passed the bill to leave but hasn’t passed the bill that tells us how.
In this state, Parliament has been creative in its attempts to break the status quo, delivering two months of almost fictional news reporting. Since November:
The Opposition has tried to hold a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister
The Conservative party has held a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister
Conservative MPs have delivered Government-challenging amendments to bills that limit the executive’s sovereignty
The Government have delayed the vote on the Prime Minister’s deal, despite already allowing almost two days of debate to take place
There have been 5 senior resignations from the Government
The Government published its long-awaited Immigration White Paper, prompting social media posts instructing current EU nationals residing in the UK to pay their £65 to enable continued residence.
Despite all of these activities the status quo is unbroken, and the Press, deflated, dismantled their temporary structures on College Green for Christmas. It is entirely possible, that the Treasury’s proposed costs of a no-deal Brexit can be almost entirely offset by the book deals currently being signed by Parliamentary reporters. It would be useful if this is true, because a no-deal Brexit is looking increasingly likely.
As we move into January, MPs and thinktanks on all sides are proposing their best course of action. There are a growing body of MPs coming out in support of the PM’s deal, no doubt impacted by the release of the New Year’s Honours list. There is also growing support for a People’s Vote, a campaign that has grown and absorbed the previously dispersed and disorganised pro-remain campaign groups. There is also a strong, largely Conservative campaign, to actively seek a no-deal.
Whilst it is possible that all of these proposals could be the path taken, the only widely agreed upon position in this chaotic Parliament, is that the Opposition have got their finger well-wide of the pulse. Their proposal is that there should be a General Election, a renegotiation and a meaningful vote, all in less than 100 days. Pausing for a second on the ability for Labour to negotiate a different deal to the Conservatives, despite having almost exactly the same parameters, it is farcical to suggest that any of these mechanisms could realistically be delivered before March. Theirs is a challenge of voter-base, as the Opposition struggles to deliver a position that satisfies their socially-conservative Northern voters, and their socially-liberal internationalist Southern voters.
Through all of this uncertainty, the only guarantee is that without action in any form, we will leave the European Union at the end of March. This plays strongly into the hands of the no-dealers and their dystopian view of Britain’s unregulated competitiveness. The Prime Minister is aware of this, but is strengthened by her recent victory in the vote of no confidence. The only way she will not remain the Prime Minister is if there is a successful vote of no confidence in the Government, something that feels unlikely. In order for this outcome to take place, the Conservatives would have to vote for an election that would likely strip them of their current position, noting the time of year, it would be like Turkeys voting for Christmas. In a similar way, the DUP know that their current agreement with the Government is bank-rolling their own power and popularity in Northern Ireland for the foreseeable future, they will not be thanked for throwing that away.
As has so often been the case in this Government, there are only a select few in 10 Downing Street who know what the next 3 months will hold. Following a potential defeat in Parliament on the Government’s deal, the Prime Minister will have to pick a side, likely to be between no-deal and a People’s Vote. It is these moments that define Prime Ministers, how will ours be judged?
International Students in the UK
In September, the MAC published their report and policy recommendations on The Impact of International Students in the UK. The main worry was whether the current time frames provided by student visas are sufficient for students to settle and find employment for once they graduate.
For undergraduate students: the course duration allows for students to settle and begin to apply for jobs and prepare for graduation. The MAC do not recommend an extension of the four month period of leave to remain in the UK post studies, as it is "not unreasonable to expect the most highly skilled students to find a job within this time".
For Master's-level students: the MAC concludes that due to the short duration of the course, students have limited time to settle and prepare for remaining in the UK post-graduation. Thus, the Committee recommends that period of leave to remain in the UK after studies have ended is increased to six months in line with the current Tier 4 pilot, assuming that evaluation of the pilot does not uncover any evidence that this would not be sensible.
For PhD-level students: given that PhD students already benefit from an extension via the Doctoral Extension Scheme, the MAC recommends that the PhD students automatically be given one year’s leave to remain after completion of their studies - a period incorporated into their original visa - under the conditions of meeting meeting progress requirements and course completion. This would allow PhD students to remain in the UK without incurring the additional costs required for the application if the Doctoral Extension Scheme.
The extension of the period of leave to remain in the UK post studies for MA level graduates is celebrated by Fashion Roundtable - it has been an issue for which we have lobbied for, and will greatly benefit design students who wish to launch their career in the UK, as it is more sensitive to the time frame of creating and launching a collection.
Furthermore, the MAC's EEA Migration: Final Report suggested no distinction between EEA and non-EEA migrants (p. 188) - EU students benefited from lower fees and fewer application barriers compared to non-EEA applicants. This recommendation invites reflection on how the student demographic will change in the following years, and will push universities to maintain EEA students interested in an English education.