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No-deal Brexit could cost UK fashion and textile industry £870m


A no-deal Brexit could cost the UK fashion and textile industry £870m per year, according to new research from the UK Fashion & Textile association (UKFT).

The EU accounts for 76% of the industry’s £9.7bn exports and in the event of a no deal, exports to the EU will attract tariffs of between 4 and 12%.

This breakdown of the annual tariff bill for exports to the EU includes:

  • £665m for clothes
  • £131m for yarn and fabrics
  • £73m for leather goods and footwear

The UK is home to a wealth of fashion and textile companies encompassing designers, manufacturers, brands and retailers. Together they provide an astonishing range of fashion and textile products which are used in a huge range of industries, including transport, automotive, medical and of course the fashion industry.

“This additional tariff bill will cause significant issues to our exporters,” said Adam Mansell, CEO of UKFT. “We are looking to the government to help ramp up support for exporters while maintaining support for UK manufacturers and increasing the home-grown talent pipeline.”

Research by UKFT shows that the impact of a no-deal Brexit will not be felt equally across the industry. Fashion exporters are likely to be hardest hit, but the impact on textile manufacturers particularly in Scotland, Yorkshire and Lancashire will also be noticeable.

If European firms suddenly start having to pay more for UK fashion and textiles, the worry is they could quickly switch to suppliers in other countries.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit the UK will also set its own tariff schedule on imports into the UK. This will mean that imports from large supply countries like China and India will become significantly cheaper (a saving of around £350m in tariffs for imports from China). However, the UK’s tariff schedule would still see Chinese imports attract an annual tariff bill of £172m and £78m for those from India.

Imports from countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan will still be able to come in without any duty (exactly as they do currently) as the UK government has committed to replicate the Generalised System of Preferences – an import regime that gives preferential access to developing countries.

Although almost all fashion and textile products will be able to come into the UK duty free, around 100 fashion products will attract import duties if a no-deal goes ahead, including bras, T-shirts and men’s jackets, as well as other products including some gloves, bed linen and table linen. The average tariff rate for these 100 products will be 12%.

All yarns and fabrics would come in duty free, putting the UK textile manufacturing industry at a distinct disadvantage. In a no-deal Brexit, an Italian weaver selling fabric to the UK would face no tariffs coming in to the UK but a UK weaver would face an 8% tariff when selling in to Italy.

Imports from Turkey will also be more expensive in the event of a no deal. Currently because Turkey has the equivalent of a free trade deal with the EU, British retailers and brands import £1.8bn of fashion and textile from Turkey. But with the UK’s proposed new import tariffs regime, affected products from the country could attract an additional tariff bill in the region of £80m.

However the UK’s exit from the European Union could bring new opportunities through meaningful trade deals with key markets.

Mansell added: “We look forward to a rapid conclusion of free trade agreements, particularly with countries like the USA. We only sell £530m of fashion and textiles to the US and the moment but that figure should be in the billions. And there are significant export opportunities for our fantastic British brands in other markets throughout the world.”

UKFT is providing guidance to companies on what they can do to prepare for a no-deal scenario by posting the most important documents and links here. These are not the only ones but they are the most important for our industry. We will update them as information becomes available.