May's Political Intelligence
Fashion in Parliament: The Latest News
APPG secures commons debate
The chair of the Fashion and Textiles APPG, Dr Lisa Cameron, secured a debate in the commons with a minister from the Department for International Trade to discuss the impact of Brexit on the fashion and textiles industries. Whilst the substance of the debate was limited, it was good to see textiles advocate Barry Sheerman MP join with Dr Cameron in expressing the concerns we have raised through our work.
Debating the news that Marks and Sparks is closing stores
Again, our brilliant chair Dr Lisa Cameron brought forward a debate on the news that Marks and Spencer is closing stores across the UK. We briefed Dr Cameron beforehand on the issue and maintain that this is a trend decision from M&S, as they seek to move more of their retail arm online, in line with the industry as a whole.
Customs strategy under pressure
The Prime Minister’s customs strategy is growing increasingly under pressure, as Remainers and Leavers intensify their stances on the issue. Labour announced they had shifted their stance to a firm commitment to a continuation of the current arrangement and this has catalysed a reformed energy in the commons on the issue. Paul Blomfield MP brought a debate to the chamber on this issue and it roared for 3 hours, despite the SoS for DExEU being absent.
Windrush and a New Hope
The modern public's perception of immigration and immigrants has been one of the most appalling outcomes of the 2008 financial crisis. Despite fact and reason all coming out in support of a flexible and open immigration policy, manifesto commitments of immigration reduction proved popular components of both Labour and Conservative election strategies. Immigration would go on to represent one of the three central pillars of Brexit; the stereotype of hospital waiting rooms looming over any evidence of the net economic benefit immigration yields for the UK.
This month, the Prime Minister lost the first of her 'big beasts'. The Home Secretary had misled Parliament in a select committee address and had failed to recognise subsequently that a human response to the outrage of Windrush was nothing but essential. The response eventually came, but the letter had already been delivered.
The Windrush story is one of perseverance and hope in the face of adversity, laced with the bracing reality of cruelness and inhumanity, this latest saga nothing but a semi-colon in the enduring story. Individuals coming to Britain with the hope of founding a better life for their family, faced with segregation and exclusion. It had taken until 2018, 70 years after the boat had landed on Britain's shores, before Parliament stood in solidarity with the Windrush Generation.
Immigration sits differently in British politics now. The ongoing debate about what our future relationship with Europe will look like has almost completely excluded considerations on freedom of movement. The Prime Minister has reinforced her commitment to end it, but there is no clear policy position or negotiation outcome as yet, that entrenches this position. Labour's new position on the customs union indirectly endorses freedom of movement, and the decision is popular. At Fashion Roundtable, we have always been in favour of extending freedom of movement after Brexit. The ability to move quickly and without a border is an essential component of the fashion industry's operation and it would significantly harm UK businesses' ability to compete if there were barriers in place to this movement.
There is already policy change, outside of the Brexit sphere, pointing to a more liberal immigration policy. The Government announced yesterday that they would be creating a new business visa for the UK, that would make it easier for individuals without a degree, to come and work full time in the UK. Although there is now a strong higher education process in the fashion industry, this marks an important announcement for individuals working in skilled textile professions.
Within the tragedy of Windrush, there is hope for a new national opinion on immigration, one which will cement our place as a competitive and international nation going forward. If you would like to discuss how you can help drive this policy forward, get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.