Brussels, A No Deal Brexit & Cultural Collaboration
Last Monday, I was invited to Brussels by The British Council and the European Cultural Foundation, where along with more than 60 other leading experts from the cultural and creative sectors, we met at Bozar, The Centre For Fine Arts Brussels, to discuss, workshop and then submit urgent concerns to Brexit negotiators. These focused on mobility, funding and partnerships and the legal questions facing the future relationship between the UK and the EU in a post Brexit landscape.
I was the only person there from the fashion industry and this has been my consistent reality since before I launched Fashion Roundtable last November. Directors of large organisations, CEOs of huge trusts and… me. A few years ago, I was a freelance stylist hopping from job to job and that post Milan Fashion Week September Monday would have meant only one thing: packing for Paris Fashion Week. Since going on a mentoring scheme for women into politics, working in the Houses of Parliament – all while still working in fashion the realisation that sometimes it isn’t down to someone else to get things done has become ever more clearer. My epiphany was sitting in yet another Brexit briefing listening to Hilary Benn MP Chair of the Brexit Select Committee and realising he needed to know our story. So, I arranged it, which in turn has led to all of this work step by step and now with a fantastic team to support and drive our work across sustainability, empowerment and identity politics as well. It’s been my fate of late, to sit in high ceilinged rooms with policy makers and experts: not only because I became all too aware that if I wasn’t there, there was often no voice from our amazing and varied fashion world; but also, as quite frankly given that fashion is the largest earning of the creative industries, we deserve to be heard and help shape the narrative. After we send out the newsletter today, I will be meeting with Defra and Dexeu – two Whitehall departments which each in their own way shape how government work with our industry, across environmental and sustainability and Brexit. These meetings are crucial to ensuring your voices feed into political dialogue, just like our surveys which we discuss in more detail in this newsletter. If you manufacture in the UK, have you looked at your supply chain to see whether your international materials go to mainland Europe first? If so, it is worthwhile looking into UK direct routes. 90% of international health food for instance is shipped to the UK from Holland. As with food, so with fashion: we need UK direct shipping and freight, if the UK and EU cannot accept a deal, until these issues are resolved.
The very real insights I bring as someone who has lived a freelance, itinerant and global life, which fashion and indeed all of the creative industries thrive on, is that my knowledge has an insider’s depth (dealing with customs and carnets is very real to me and all editors, photographers and fashion crews!) and this insider knowledge is as important as those who have worked in research and policy for years.
The UK’s relationship with the EU has never been more uncertain, we are sharing No Deal Preparedness advice with the Fashion Roundtable community direct from the Department for Exiting The EU, precisely because we have been asked to. The very real prospect of a No Deal Brexit is not something I anticipated in a worst case scenario amongst so many worst case scenarios. Which is why this meeting in Brussels was so important, as it allowed for a group of UK and European cultural and creative ambassadors to highlight our where working together has been intrinsic to our success and how vital this is to our future. We worked on 3 key issues: mobility, legal and funding. The press release below from The British Council details our key policy asks. For me the most worrying issue we could be facing is that with leaving the EU, not only might we need visas – which is why I was at a FreeMoveCreate meeting yesterday – working on cross creative sector strategy to support continued ease of access for all of us in the industry, cheaply. But also, the prospect of work permits. Work permits and freelance, last minute jobs do not go together. They make it harder for you to be booked, to access markets and indeed to make a living in our global industry, where you might live and pay your taxes in the UK but you have to leave regularly either for shows, or simply to make a living.
Once the terms of Brexit have been made clearer this Autumn, it is our aim at Fashion Roundtable to host another Brexit event. This is not a time to wait and see.
On the 24th of September, Centre for Fine Arts of Brussels (BOZAR) published the following statement reflecting on the success of the event:
“More than two years after the citizens of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union the future relationship between the UK and the EU remains unclear. In the spirit of proactive and responsible global citizenship, a number of steps have been taken to clarify what that relationship could or should be once BREXIT negotiations have been completed, while fully respecting the results of the vote to leave on June 23, 2016.
Today the Centre for Fine Arts of Brussels (BOZAR), in partnership with the European Cultural Foundation and the British Council, assembled leading cultural workers, directors, artists, and European federations assembled to raise their voices on Brexit and its potential impact on their fields: from music to design, audiovisual, architecture, visual arts, performing art, or publishing.
Coming from all over the EU, participants clearly expressed their concerns that their interests may have been overlooked, and that the power of these sectors has been underestimated.”