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Exit from EU may damage UK fashion sector

A wide range of industries in the UK could be damaged if there is no free trade deal in place in two years’ time. Fashion will be among the major industries to suffer. The EU was Britain’s biggest market for textiles and apparel, accounting for 74 per cent of those exports. Britain’s exports to the EU rose 36 per cent from 2012 to 2016. The rise was boosted by an increased interest in heritage UK manufacturing and the creativity of British fashion designers.

The UK is currently seen as a gateway to the EU and losing this status if it has no fee trade deal could jeopardise one of the key contributors to the sector’s growth. With attention focused on protecting Britain's trade in financial services, non-financial exports are at risk. Such industries make up around one-third of total UK exports and currently run a trade surplus, another major reason for them to be protected.

Not only would exports be hit but EU copyright protection for designers could be at risk and that could mean effectively closing down London Fashion Week as a platform to promote British businesses. However, industries like fashion may do better than aviation or broadcasting in the absence of a free trade deal. Fashion can fall back on World Trade Organisation rules.