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Exclusive: Modelling Giant Warns Of "End Of" British Industry Over Post-Brexit Work Permits

5 min read

A major agency which represents Naomi Campbell and Twiggy has warned that models now face a three month wait to work in Europe, effectively killing off their chances at work in the EU post-Brexit.

Models are being told they need work permits for certain jobs in Europe that could take up to three months to process.

London-based Models 1, the largest modelling agency in Europe, has already lost 40 percent of its income in the last year due to Brexit and the coronavirus travel restrictions. 

John Horner, the agency’s managing director warned of a huge crisis for the industry at fashion roundtable event held by Labour’s Alison McGovern, shadow minister for culture and sport, and shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens, which brought together leading figures in the country’s £35 billion fashion, modelling and textile sectors. 

“There is no freedom of movement for models who want to work in Europe,” Horner said.  

“We’re on our knees as an industry anyway at the moment after 12 months of lockdown and we reckon we are down about 40% year-on-year compared to 2019. That’s not sustainable for this industry at all.”

The British industry has 10,000 models, and of those 30% come from the EU, and 30% are from outside of the UK and EU. 

“It is now virtually impossible to get British models into Europe," Horner continued. "25% of our revenue comes from Europe.

“We can get a model booked on a job tomorrow morning in Paris, and right now she can’t go to Paris without the appropriate documentation.”
For Spain, he says the agency understands it will take up to three months to get a work permit and a visa for a modelling job, which would be unworkable in the fast-moving industry, 

“That’s the end of that. We just can’t work like that," Horner continued.

"Twenty-seven different member states have different regulations in every single case. Models work globally and cross borders every single day and uniquely Britain won’t be able to get their models into Europe, it will become a complete disaster.”

Leaders of the fashion and textile have also issued fresh warnings to the government that they need to put garment machinists on the shortage occupation list for visas. There are also calls to revise duty and VAT arrangements, as fears of up to 240,000 job losses across the sector continue.  

Tamara Cincik, stylist and founder of a think-tank Fashion Roundtable, took aim at the £2,000 government grants that are being offered to small and medium sized businesses to help them get used to the customs process post-Brexit, VAT and rules of origin. 

She said: “If you compare that to what the fishing industry has got with the £23 million for exports for a 12,000 workforce. It’s just not even.”

Giving an example of a £150 delivery from Germany that is now costing an extra £80 in haulage fees, she said: “We are calling for frictionless, the waiver visa, as well as looking at the bilateral agreements.”
Kate Hills, of Make It British, which supports British manufacturers, said in certain areas of the textile industry there aren’t enough machinists to support their projects. She has joined calls for garment workers to be added to the government’s occupation shortage list.   

Adam Mansell, chief executive of the UK Fashion and Textile Association, also said the shortage occupation list needs to be changed by government to help the fashion industry, and highlighted the new costs introduced through Brexit are crushing the UK fashion industry. 

He said: “If you buy UK fabric, send it to Portugal to be made into a pair of trousers and bring it back into the UK. All of those trade movements are duty free. 

“You then sell those pair of trousers from the UK to an Italian consumer or a German wholesaler, that then attracts duty. So even a garment made with UK fabric made in the EU, if you sell it back to the EU, attracts duty. 

“Those are the sort of the practical issues that no-one really understood when the trade continuity agreement was announced. We need to be very clear in the language we use. This isn’t a free trade deal. There’s very little that’s free in it.”

Shipping costs are three times higher, courier companies are slapping firms with Brexit surcharges, Mansell said, and like Models 1, he suggested getting British models in and out of the EU to work on shoots or catwalks is “very, very difficult”.

Jo Stevens, shadow culture secretary, said: “The double whammy of Brexit and Covid, which we know has had a significant adverse impact across the economy and the fashion and textile sector, obviously it’s been at the centre of that. 

“The government hasn’t and isn’t listening. That’s on top of the fact there was plenty of evidence before we went into Brexit negotiations that were specific to the fashion and textile industry that Brexit wasn’t just affecting confidence, investment and spending in the lead up to those negotiations but the impacts we see now was entirely foreseeable.

"We need the government to up its game and ambition on this to build on that limited deal that was negotiated.”

A UK Government Spokesperson said: “We’ve always been clear that the end of freedom of movement would have implications for professional mobility. However we're working across government and with industry, including through a DCMS-led working group, on plans to support cultural and creative professionals who temporarily work in the EU.

“The working group will provide new guidance to help artists understand what's required in different countries. We will also be engaging with Member States on the issue and looking carefully at proposals for a new Export Office that could provide further practical help.”

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