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Industry reacts to no-deal Brexit clothing tariffs

The government has announced further temporary import tariffs on additional clothing products including women’s blouses, trousers and jackets produced in developed countries, which would be put in place in the event of a no-deal Brexit. 

Import tariffs of 8%-12% will now apply to additional clothing items that were previously subject to no charges. The categories of clothing products subject to the tariff has expanded from 97 to 140. 

New products affected include: women’s and girls’ blouses, trousers, and jackets made of cotton or wool; men’s and boy’s pyjamas, woollen cardigans and pullovers, and men’s and boys’ swimwear.

The government has said these tariffs, applicable to all countries not under the generalised scheme of preferences, will “ensure the preferential access to the UK market currently available to developing countries”.

Developing countries under the generalised scheme of preferences (GSP), including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Pakistan, will not be subject to the tariff, allowing them to remain competitive. 

Adam Mansell, CEO of the UK Fashion and Textile Association, said: “Whilst we recognise the need to protect imports from countries covered by GSP – for example Bangladesh, Pakistan – announcing these changes 23 days before the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union leaves businesses with very little time to prepare. In the event of a no-deal, it does nothing to help UK exporters which are facing an additional tariff bill of £870m when selling into Europe.”

Under these temporary tariffs, 88% of total imports to the UK by value would be eligible for tariff-free access. 

Speaking to Drapers, UK suppliers sourcing from Turkey, which would be hit by the new tariffs, said prices would have to increase. 

“My frustration on all of this is that it’s the public who pay for it. No business ever swallows that tariff. I’ve never heard of a company not passing on the cost,” said Richard King, sales director at the Cotton Textile Company which supplies clothing and accessories to several high street fashion, lifestyle and sportswear brands. 

Despite the tariffs, King said Turkey is still a preferred sourcing hub for many retailers as the order minimums are smaller. 

”When we look at our customer base it doesn’t matter whether it’s a huge lifestyle brand or a small niche brand, the volumes that they’re looking at per product line are coming down. We are looking at Bangladesh for a couple of products, but they are volume and price-based. You pay the penalty in terms of communication and lead times,” he said. 

Elvan Unluturk, managing director of Turkish manufacturer Sun Tekstil, which supplies womenswear to retailers including ZaraMarks & SpencerTesco and Amazon, agreed. 

“For UK companies sourcing from Turkey I don’t think there are many alternatives,” she said, noting that there had been no change in orders from its customers since the original temporary tariffs were announced in March.

“The customers will have to pay a little extra, but it will just be another expense on the list and we will get through it. My expectation is that business will drop next year, at least in the first half, because companies need to adjust. Hopefully the government will sort free trade agreements as soon as possible - we cannot afford to lose each other.”

Trade policy minister Conor Burns said: “The UK will be leaving the EU on 31 October, and we are working with businesses to ensure the UK is ready to trade from day one.

“Our temporary tariff regime will support the UK economy as a whole, helping British businesses to trade, and opening up opportunities for business to import the best goods from around the world at the best prices for British consumers.

“The UK is a free-trading nation and British business is in a strong position to compete in an open, free-trading environment.”

The regime is a temporary 12-month measure. A full consultation on a permanent approach to tariffs will be undertaken from January. All businesses, interest groups and consumers will be able to share their views throughout this process. 

Readers' comments (1)

  • If all the tariffs and lots of other items we are importing from Europe were announced/available for the voters at the time of the vote to leave EU or stay,-, the outcome would have been completely different. So instead of working for this not to happen, Mr. B.Johnson and his cronies are determined to make such a misery for us all. Instead of working to avoid all these new tariffs which will increase the living cost of up to 11.5% for everyone in the UK he sits back and play a waiting game, - I really hope the government here in the UK would work hard to avoid any price increases for the population, but unfortunately no! - its now more about a personal vendetta, and that is not helping any one. So Boris Johnson hike up your trousers and get working for a good deal to save us all from the misery your party has made for us all in 2016, thanks.

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