Fashion Roundtable Despatch March 2018
POLITICS • ECONOMICS • BUSINESS
Fashion in Parliament:
The House of Lords and Intellectual Property– Parliament’s second chamber held a debate this month about fashion and the protection of intellectual property rights after Brexit. Whilst the substance of the debate is of crucial importance, it did not attract the engagement we would have liked: indeed it only lasted for 8 minutes. Nonetheless, this is good publicity and we will be working with Honourable members on this subject going forward.
Seasonal Migrant Workers– Although only tangibly linked to the fashion industry, the House of Commons held a lively debate this month in favour of supporting seasonal migrant workers post-Brexit. The fashion industry relies on short-term project specific migration, and in the same way farmers need seasonal workers, fashion needs seasonal workers (SS/AW). Remaining in the Single Market is the clearest route to delivering this and was our principle objective in our recent Brexit manifesto.
The Fisheries– At the publishing of our report, we identified that fishing delivers roughly £1.9bn to the UK economy, compared to fashion’s £29.7bn. Nonetheless, fashion is yet to have a debate dedicated to the industry, in the House of Commons, in two years. Which means fashion has not been debated during the entire EU referendum process. As aforementioned, fashion did have a debate in the Lords but it only lasted 8 minutes. Fishing, this month, had a debate dedicated to the subject in the Commons and it lasted almost an hour.
Observations: Division and Debate. By Navjyot Lehl: Fashion Roundtable's UK Politics Expert.
What Has Happened in Brexit and Where Are We Now?
Theresa May must have enjoyed her Easter break, packing up for the holidays on a huge political win. She not only managed to conclude the terms and principles of the transition agreement expected to end in December 2020, but also got the House of Commons to agree on the divorce Bill at 43 billion euros, as well as managing to get Tory rebels to accept free movement of people 21 months after we officially leave. No wonder a recent You Gov poll just before Good Friday saw the Tories on 43%, a 2 point lead ahead of the Labour Party.
But the decisive issue of Northern Ireland remains unresolved. To date, no solution short of customs union or single market membership has been made. Katy Hayward, political sociologist on conflict/post-conflict transitions at Queen’s University Belfast has argued that possible solutions such as technological tools, regulatory convergence or moving the border in the Irish Sea would not fix the problem. With the issue being fudged at the recent EU Summit it’s only a matter of time when it will arise again hot on the cabinet meeting agenda.
The one year anniversary of triggering Article 50 saw the Prime Minister kicking off a whistle stop tour of the four nations of the UK. With the launch of their latest report to mark the occasion, The UK in a Changing Europe, a think tank on UK-EU relations highlighted ‘a lack of clear direction’ from the government which is ‘affecting the ability to plan for the future.’
The 28 chapter, 73 page report written by academics across the country covers what has happened since Article 50 was triggered, the negotiations and process of Brexit, politics and economics over the last year as well as what is likely to happen in key sectors. Some of the highlights include Sir John Curtice’s polls showing public opinion heading to a pro- European direction. By 2021, this will trend will grow due to rising education, rising ethnic diversity and generational change.
When it comes to economics, the report finds, GDP growth in the UK was, on average, 0.6% higher than the other G7 members before the referendum, in 2017 it was 0.9% lower.They conclude that by the third quarter of 2017 UK GDP was approximately 1.3 percentage points lower than it would have been if the UK had not voted for Brexit.
Everyone remembers Boris’ unequivocal remarks during the referendum campaign on how 350 million paid into the EU could be used for the NHS. With the NHS turning 70 in July this year, a recent report on Brexit and the NHS put Boris’ claim to the test. The report highlighted that the 200,000 EU nationals working in the health and social care sectors are pivotal to the NHS in London, south east England and Northern Ireland. These areas could become vulnerable to skills shortages should future immigration rules be more restrictive. Fewer staff could lead to a reduction in service quality which could result in longer waiting times, increased pressure on staffing levels and delays in the approvals of medicine.
The Brexit outcome not only showed a stark political divide but also a cultural one too. For the first time Londoners took notice of what the North had to say. Think tanks such as the Centre for Towns, Centre for Citiesand IPPR North have all highlighted the economical imbalance when it comes to funding, jobs, local development and housing. Academics from CityREDI in a recent report found that the UK regions which voted Leave tend to be more dependent on EU markets for their prosperity than those regions which voted Remain. The UK economy are likely to be adversely affected by Brexit, these effects are likely to be much harsher in those economically weaker region creating greater inter-regional imbalances.
So what happens next? The EU Withdrawal Bill will return from the House of Lords with amendments possibly on a second referendum, which will further test the trust of the very anti Brexit Tory rebels. As if that wasn’t enough, May will also need to make a substantive move on the Border issue, in order to show the EU she is making progress before her next summit in June. So fair to say, there is plenty to look forward to.
Image credit Black Neon Digital
Trade Wars – The Threat of Isolationism is Beyond Political Rhetoric
Trade wars make for good headlines, headlines that support a nation’s domestic opinion polls, as the damaging reality of trade barriers hit the wallets of the population. When the UN impose tariffs on North Korea or Iran, both nations spin the advent of a trade war, pledging to damage the economies of those who dare threaten the makeup of the international trading status quo. These words rarely move off of the front pages and into economic policy, and there has always been a muted comfort in that.
Trump’s election campaign was built on the foundations of isolationism. The erection of barriers to other nations and globalisation was no more visible than in his ‘wall’. In this election and many more across Europe, populism became entrenched in isolationism. The progress towards a transparent and global economic agenda now halted.
Last month, Trump imposed tariffs of up to 25% on key Chinese exports to the US, a move not seen since the American tariffs of Fordney-McCumber and Hawley-Smoot, almost 100 years ago. Unsurprisingly, China have responded in kind, lumping equivalent tariffs on valuable US exports. Whilst Trump’s decision to make such a catastrophically misinformed judgement on trade is not surprising, the firmness of the international response should serve as a reminder that the economic authority of the ‘west’ is vulnerable.
China’s response is far smarter and targeted than many appreciate. One of the headline tariffs is on soy bean, a principle export of states like Missouri, Iowa, Ohio and Indiana. What do all these states have in common? They are states where Trump performed strongest in the election. Hitting him ‘right in the mid-west’ is unlikely to destabilise Trump so far out from 2020, but it represents the flexibility and planning China are ready to utilise in their pursuit of global economic hegemony.
Like all bad dreams, this article must now come back to Brexit. What the European Union provides to member states, oft ignored in mainstream discussion and because we are lucky to live in an era of globalisation, is protection from global economic events, like trade wars. Walking away from the protection of the Single Market makes us vulnerable, as we lose the economic might that helps swing these kinds of negotiations. China will pick a fight with America, politics is in play, but it is unlikely to pick an equivalent fight with the European Union. The recent steel dumping allegations and subsequent response evidences this. Despite steel representing a minor export for China, the EU was not afraid to throw the bureaucratic ‘kitchen sink’ in defence of its member states, like Britain.
Whilst populism ravages our stable economic order, Britain should be taking steps to protect our economy, not leave it more vulnerable. We are advocates for the Single Market for many reasons, but stability is an important one. Cloth, fabric, and fast fashion exports rely on harmonious economic relationships with the Asian continent; we mustn’t allow a hand grenade economic policy in the Oval Office to destabilise our industry.
Read our Brexit Report and Manifesto, launched on March 29th, a year to the date that Article 50 was triggered, here.
APPG For Textiles and Fashion Meeting at the Houses of Parliament: Fashion Trade with China.
The APPG for Textile and Fashion met at the Houses of Parliament for a meeting on fashion trade with China. Speakers included designer Huishan Zhang, as well as representatives of JD.com, Alibaba, VIP.com and Graduate Fashion. Read the minutes from the meeting here.
Fashion Roundtable March Political Meetings
Fashion Roundtable sat on a roundtable chaired by Rt Hon. Sir Oliver Lewin for the Red Tape Initiative at the Houses of Parliament, outlining the concerns of the fashion industry.
Fashion Roundtable attended the APPG for Art, Craft and Design in Education chaired by Sharon Hodgson MP at the Houses of Parliament, to support their advocacy on STEAM not STEM education, vital for the domicile creative industries talent pipeline.
Fashion Roundtable attended the launch of the APPG for Muslim Women Digital Entrepreneurs chaired by Baroness Uddin at the House of Lords
Fashion Roundtable attended the UK In A Changing Europe Local and Devolved Government conference.
Fashion Roundtable attended the UK In A Changing Europe annual conference.
Fashion Roundtable attended the launch of the Creative Industries Sector Deal hosted by BEIS and DCMS on behalf of the UK Government.
Fashion Roundtable organised the agenda and invitees for the APPG for Textiles and Fashion on Fashion Trade with China at the Houses of Parliament (see above).