Fashion Roundtable Despatch January 2018
POLITICS • ECONOMICS • BUSINESS
Creative Pay Equality
Carrie Gracie and Creative Pay Equality – The BBC was yet again the subject of open criticism, as one of its senior editors, Carrie Gracie, resigned her role citing pay inequality. MPs debated the resignation and although the majority of the content focused on the legislative authority Parliament has over the BBC, this does raise wider questions on how pay can be equalised in the creative sectors.
Fashion as in behaviour – It is of the repeated frustration of Fashion Roundtable's Political Intelligence, to find that the word 'fashion' is repeatedly used in the Chamber to mean 'behaviour' rather than in reference to our £28bn UK industry. It is indicative of the era which is preserved in Westminster, that such vocabulary prevails despite being largely redundant on the streets of the Constituencies these MPs represent.
No Fashion mentions in the House of Commons or House of Lords - more work to be done.
Observations: Division and Debate. By Jack Tindale.
After a three-day visit to China, which came amidst news that the long-standing ban on British Beef would be lifted and continued good sales for Burberry (helped, according to the People’s Daily, by a successful advertising campaign on the social networking platform WeChat, Theresa May returned to London at the weekend. Having had a more successful week than many she has endured recently, the Prime Minister will almost certainly be looking forward to another trade mission in the near future.
This is because the long-delayed decision on the exact state of the post-Brexit deal can be put aside no longer. On Wednesday and Thursday, the Cabinet will finally meet to thrash-out a decision on what vision the Government has for leaving the European Union.
On the flight back from China, May would have had time to relax, perhaps even by reading some classical Chinese literature, such as the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The opening lines of the 14th Century epic are well known even to those of us in the west; "The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been." It would be hard to find a more apt term for the travails facing the Prime Minister than those penned by Luo Guanzhong.
For the Prime Minister, division is a constant threat in a Cabinet long split down the middle by two camps. One camp, led by the Chancellor, is the ‘soft-Brexit’ vision of continued regulatory alinement from the European Union. Although forced into qualifying his remarks to a CBI lunch at Davos last month that leaving the EU would only involve “very modest” changes to the status quo, it led to an immediate backlash from the more ardent Brexiteers in Cabinet, clustered around the Johnson-Gove axis. On Monday, Downing Street confirmed that the UK would be leaving ‘The’ Customs Union, although more observant commentators have noted that the possibility of ‘A’ Customs Union is possible. It is unlikely that the statement would be sufficient to appease the evangelists of hard-Brexit. Reports in The Sunday Times recently of a palace coup, which would see a triumvirate of Johnson, Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg take command of the country, are perhaps premature scuttlebutt, but the possibility of the third Prime Minister in as many years cannot be discounted.
David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, is believed to favour a close post-Brexit situation, at least for an interim period, in what must be seen as a concession to the Chancellor and the Treasury. This has led to criticism of the United Kingdom becoming a ‘vassal state’ in the words of Mr Rees-Mogg, with the UK neither involved in EU decision-making whilst lacking any opportunity to make the independent trade policy and regulatory divergence demanded for by the Leave campaign. However, many commentators would do well to remember that Brexit is not a decision to be made by the United Kingdom, with the European Commission, Parliament and 27 other EU legislatures all having demands of their own as to the nature of Brexit deal.
Last month, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, announced that any ‘transitionary arrangement’ between the UK and European Union would finish no later than the end of 2020, far sooner than the five to eight years favoured by figures such as the CBI’s Carolyn Fairbairn. In a speech given in January, Ms Fairbairn cited Treasury estimations that any third-party trade deals made with the likes of the United States, China and South Korea would only yield up to two percent to GDP growth, compared with a loss of up to eight percent in the event of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit where Britain returned to trading with the European Union according to World Trade Organisation rules.
Of course, such estimations could prove to be unfounded – an argument that has recently done the rounds in the view of various pro-Leave figures, including not just Mr Rees-Mogg, but also Brexit Minister Steve Baker, who dismissed the reports of his own civil servants. Critics of the Treasury’s findings point to the apocalyptic warnings of the Government ahead of the original referendum, with pointed to an immediate recession and spike in unemployment. Defenders of the Treasury
approach counter with the impact that the devaluation of the Pound had upon the markets, as well as the fall in British GDP growth from the top to the near bottom of the world’s leading economies.
However, it is unlikely that neither current economic figures, nor long-term growth projections, will significantly alter the battle lines within the Cabinet ahead of the crunch meetings this week. Brexit has never been rooted in economic arguments, but goes to wider notions of belonging, social alienation, and constitutionalism. Whilst this is rarely an area that is noted by sectors such as the fashion industry, it is worth considering.
In light of all of this, some positive trends continue. The news that international student numbers reached record highs is a sign of the inherent strength and resilience of the British higher education system, with creative institutions such as the London College of Fashion continuing to provide access to some of the best courses and industry figures in the world. However, the fact that 2018 is the final year before irrevocable changes to Britain’s relations with EU partners may have focused minds by people wishing to study in the UK. The chances of a more adaptive policy towards students may emerge in light of Brexit. Long blocked by the Prime Minister, the Daily Mail recently reported that the Home Secretary has stated that removing international students from domestic immigration figures is now “inevitable”.
The United Kingdom will leave the European Union on 29th March 2019. This is now as close to certain as anything in politics is, being as it is backed by both the Government and the Labour Party frontbench. That the post-Brexit vision, however, remains so vague as to be unknown, is where the real challenge for policy makers and industry lies.
They have just over a year to find out.
Jack Tindale is Manager for Design and Innovation Policy at the cross-party think tank, Policy Connect – he writes here in a personal capacity
Brexit: Our Letter to MPs
In January 2018 we launched a direct action campaign to let all MPs know about the key concerns of the industry from Brexit. The Fashion Roundtable team have fact checked the detail and we urge all within the fashion industry to use this very simple to send letter to your MP. From loss of Freedom of Movement, to costs to business of tariffs on trade, as well as Single Market access. "We would like assurances on whether we are remaining within the EU customs union and that this Parliament fully understands the logistical issues for an industry where the supply chain is international and fluid. One garment and its constituent materials can go in and out of multiple territories from design to delivery. We ask what support is the Government planning to put in place to ensure our future growth and to prevent a talent and economic drain, as working and location within the Single Market and Customs Union becomes far easier and more attractive to fashion businesses, leading to an estimated 35% drop in creative sector business within the UK?" For the link to our cut and paste campaign email to MPs, please go to: https://www.fashionroundtable.co.uk/news/letter-to-mps-customs-union-single-market and to find your MP's contact details click here: https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/
Beware the Dreaded Forecast - Op- Ed Mystery Guest Editor
By far the greatest evil, borne out of the EU Referendum, has been the perpetuation and validation of the unsupported criticism of facts. Scientists warning about the dangers of global warming, economists forecasting economic instability and social scientists daring to draw links between poverty and the socially right-wing, have all be laughed out of the metaphorical room. Ironically, the man who donned the phrase 'fake news' is the absolute antithesis of the truth and that only serves to amplify my gut-wrenching hatred of the situation.
This month Civil Servants have been in the firing line, as leaked Treasury forecasts and impact assessments show the scale to which regions and sectors of the United Kingdom are set to suffer, following departure date. As many pre-vote forecasts suggested back in 2016, the regions set to suffer the most economically, are those which overwhelmingly voted 'Leave'. For those of you reading this in London, this may seem an amusing example of just-deserts until we are reminded of the relationship between suicide rates and economic performance.
This being nothing but an extension of 'project fear', as Jacob Rees Mogg would have us believe it is, compounds the real nature of this problem. If I were to attend the doctors, have an MRI scan, and be told I have Cancer, it would be illogical of me to assume that these professionals were wrong. It would be even more ridiculous for me to go further and claim that I have to be right, simply because in that moment, I wasn’t already dead from Cancer.
Jacob and Nadine, the Jack and Rose of this economic Titanic, repeatedly tell us that the forecasts are in disrepute because the economy is still performing well despite the Brexit vote. With God Save the Queen romping in the background, I can't help but be warmed by the patriotism of this statement, until I realise that we have neither left the EU yet, nor is the economy performing well.
So why do we validate these individuals with our support? And why haven't we already "crushed the saboteurs"?
The reality is that today, almost a third of the time, effort and money of the Civil Service, is being spent on Brexit related things. Businesses around the Country are rushing to establish new operating procedures, sitting patiently with their heads below the parapets waiting for the barrage to be over. Migration from the EU is down as potential valuable workers stay out the decision to commit to supporting our economy. People and businesses alike are nervous and it is clear they are not being consoled by the likes of Jacob and Nadine. Whilst the Daily (white) Male and others desperately attempt to forge the public opinion this political decision relies upon, it is growing increasingly clear that we are approaching a Rubicon moment for Brexit.
I was happy to write this for Fashion Roundtable because I want more people to do as they do, to want to fight for economic prosperity, for hope and for facts. The "truth will out", we are always told, and I am confident it will be hear as it was when you were 11 and at school and had stolen the white board rubber.
Dr Lisa Cameron MP Outlines Her Commitment To Promoting Fashion And Textiles Within Parliament.
The UK Textile and Fashion Industry is one of our largest, worth approximately £28bn annually and is now reported to be the UKs second – sector employers. The industry is crucial to our economy and Government must have a clear understanding of the policies needed to ensure jobs and livelihoods, sustainability and to maintain best practice. This industry is what culturally defines Great Britain, yet its influence on British culture has yet to make its mark in Parliament. Whilst I’m sure most Members of Parliament would enjoy a little fashion advice themselves, the mark I am referring to is political. This industry champions individuality, creativity and equality and ought to be advocating for such ideals in the corridors of Westminster.
The recently formed Textiles & Fashion APPG which I am chairing will seek to act as bridge between the sector and policymakers to begin this much needed dialogue. I am delighted to have the role of Chairing this group during this crucial period, one of its most successful, yet challenging eras. For policymakers, we must consider ethical design, diversity within the industry, support regional growth alongside international trade and of course, navigate the impact of Brexit.
It is also crucial, to ensure diversity that Parliament looks at who is making that happen in the textile and fashion world – in terms of inclusion for disabled people, ethnicity, fashion across the lifespan and healthy body image. Importantly, we also want to champion regional developments and will shortly be launching a challenge to MPs to meet with local textile and fashion companies and to nominate them for a ‘Best in the UK’ award.
The UK is a global leader in everything from fashion start-ups, to avant-garde designers to digital retailers. These fashion economic powerhouses need to assess the risk from future, less fluid trade deals. Whilst it is true that the strength of the textile and fashion sector has meant record increased sales since the Brexit vote, this is believed to be attributable in part to the weakness of the pound. Many crucial issues remain unanswered that may have significant bearing on the future of the industry including the arrangement for EU students within our fashion colleges, visa requirements for our graduates who seek employment in major EU design houses, the impact of restrictions on freedom of movement for work placements/internships not to mention its impact upon manufacturing costs, trade and movement of our goods.
In my capacity as Chair of the Textiles & Fashion APPG, I recently joined forces with nine other creative groups in Parliament to call on the Government to protect the rights of EU workers and to ensure our creative talent pipeline remains strong and supported after we leave the EU. The passion shown from the creative industries in attendance were inspiring and as we gather a momentum within the Textiles and Fashion industry the Government will require to listen.
There are exciting times ahead and the All Party Parliamentary Group is truly a cross party endeavour with wide representation from five political parties in the current parliament. Fundamentally, we will be working to promote the industry’s progression and ensure that its’ future contribution -of which we all are proud, remains sustainable, successful and world leading.
Dr Lisa Cameron is the SNP MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow. She now Chairs the Textiles and Fashion All-Party Parliamentary Group, for which Fashion Roundtable provides the secretariat.
Fashion Roundtable January Political Meetings
As well as our January Fashion Roundtable Brexit event, where civil servants from BEIS, DCMS and DIT were in attendance; Bev and Tamara from our team met with the Retail Head of BEIS this month and the Lib Dem's Peers' Adviser for Education.
Fashion Roundtable attended a number of events with the Creative Industries Federation with Dexeu, DCMS and leading stakeholders, as well as a further event with Margot James, Minister of State for DCMS.
Fashion Roundtable also met with the DIT North American Fashion Team at the DIT offices.
Fashion Roundtable as secretariat for the APPG for Textiles and Fashion, worked along side 9 other All Party Parliamentary Groups inside the House of Commons for the latest Drawn Together event at Portcullis House, Houses of Parliament, promoting the concerns of the entire creative sector and freedom of movement. See the link for minutes: https://www.fashionroundtable.co.uk/news/drawn-together-10-appgs-including-appg-for-textiles-and-fashion-freedom-of-movement-creatives-post-brexit