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Fashion industry raises concerns over EU referendum

Fashion bosses have expressed relief at the election of a Conservative government, but raised concerns about the proposed referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.  

Retailers welcomed the stability of a majority government, as the sterling soared against the euro and dollar. However, attention quickly turned to speculation prime minister David Cameron could bring forward an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union to 2016.

New business secretary Sajid Javid this week played down the rumours, but said a referendum was “urgent” and would be held before the end of 2017.

Business leaders told Drapers a decision to leave the EU would be “disastrous”.

Daniel Rubin, founder of footwear chain Dune, said: “I’m very concerned about the EU issue. We need to renegotiate the best terms we can, but it will be a massive blow for business if we leave. They are a major trading partner, so it is essential from a business point of view.”

However, Graeme Nichol, sales director at footwear supplier 33 Joints, believes “sooner is better than later” if a referendum must be held. “If it’s going to happen, we’d better get on with it, as not knowing will put people off making investment decisions,” he said.

Bill Macbeth, managing director of the Textile Centre of Excellence in Huddersfield, which provides support to Yorkshire manufacturers, said: “We need to negotiate a better deal, but we don’t need 11th hour panic talks like we had at the Scottish referendum. I hope common sense will prevail.”

He added that the government now needs to fulfil its pledge to deliver 3 million new apprenticeships.

“We need clarity on how the apprenticeships we have been promised will be funded. To grow the number of small and medium companies taking apprentices on we need the cost to be as low as possible.

“We also need to see some of the pledges to invest in technology for startups being realised.”

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