It has now been more than two and a half years since the Brexit vote. Since that fateful day, the UK has been mired in uncertainty and, unfortunately, it is showing no signs of abating.
Brexit flags for web
Following the rejection by parliament of Theresa May’s first Brexit deal, this week she unveiled her “Plan B” . However, despite May’s insistence that this deal is “different in a number of ways”, those differences are not quite clear.
May intends to engage more deeply with businesses – but in November she formed five business councils to consult on the best outcomes from Brexit. These councils include business leaders such as Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, and Tesco CEO Dave Lewis. It is unknown how previous consultations with these leaders will now evolve to contribute to Plan B.
Fashion has been clear on its requirements. In October 2016, published the findings of our exclusive Brexit survey, detailing what our industry would like the government to prioritise in the negotiations to leave the European Union. We sent the findings to the culture, media and sport committee’s inquiry into Brexit – and industry bodies submitted their own.
Now more than ever, the industry desperately needs some clarity. This uncertainty is resulting in some UK businesses holding back on expansion in terms of new store openings, logistics or warehousing facilities. Consumer confidence is low and big buying decisions are being put on hold as the nation waits to see what a Brexit deal – or no deal – might look like.
But business must go on. The autumn 19 selling season has started, although in many cases with caution. Brands have had to set prices with no indication about the impact on sterling over the coming months or what may happen with import and export duties. Moreover, when I attended menswear trade show Pitti Uomo in Florence earlier this month, UK brands highlighted that some international buyers had been reluctant to place orders with British brands until some certainty has been restored.
I, and many others in this industry, once again urge the government to consult with UK businesses on the best Brexit outcome. The prime minister may have won the confidence of parliament, but as this uncertainty rumbles on, the government is losing that of businesses and consumers.