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Threat of Brexit creative talent exodus looms

Talented creative workers will leave the UK fashion industry as a result of Brexit unless new visa rules are introduced, the Creative Industries Federation has warned.

Travel restrictions and visa costs would put non-UK workers off what is usually a flexible and outward-looking industry, according to the federation’s Global Talent Report.

The federation has called upon the government to allow workers from all parts of the creative industries, including fashion, to have visa-free access to the UK and introduce creative freelance visas for talent outside of the EU. 

It also recommended that it scrap the immigration skills charge.

A total of 57% of creative businesses surveyed by the Federation said that they are already facing skills shortages, and 75% of them employed non-UK EU nationals. Of these, two thirds said that they could not fill those jobs with British workers.

It highlighted that according to ad hoc DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) data, 23% of the fashion industry is made up of those under 30, and that 61% of its workforce is self-employed.

It also pointed out that the minimum salary requirement of £30,000 for long-term workers and £35,000 for indefinite leave to remain is “far above the average rate of pay for many highly skilled workers in the sector”.

Quoted in the report, John Horner, chief executive of the Association of Models’ Agents warned that the modelling industry would be uniquely affected:

”London’s four fashion weeks demonstrate the international nature of the industry. AMA estimate that the profile of models in fashion week is 40% British, 30% EEA (European Economic Area) and 30% non-EEA, using the four largest UK agents as a proxy.

“Each week attracts about 90 designers who work with 750 models, provided through 20-25 model agencies. The events are the major global showcase for British designers, critical to their ongoing success.

“Our ability to bring in non-EEA models is already limited and further compromising this will threaten our reputation. If London cannot welcome models flying from New York fashion week, they may bypass us and go straight to Milan and Paris.”

Rosie Millard, deputy CEO of the Federation said: “People will look elsewhere – the UK’s residing fashion industry needs that injection of talent from the EU and has a huge amount of freelance workers that need same-day access.

”We are calling for visa-free travel between the UK and the EU, and for those outside the EU, for a creative freelance visa – it should be a part of Brexit negotiations and included in the list of requirements.”

She added: “If you’re under 30 you’re probably not a property owner, you probably don’t have a family and can go anywhere. It’s an industry skewed to the young, and people are very mobile so London, Manchester and other UK cities are in danger of losing their statuses at centres of excellence in favour of those in mainland Europe.”

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