So it's official - the UK is planning to leave the European Single Market. Details are - I assume at least - to follow, but as of this moment in time the future the modelling industry, our employees and our clients is still completely up in the air.
Six months ago all we knew was that Britain is leaving the EU. Six months on and all we know is that Britain is leaving the EU... and the single market. Now all we need are some actual details so we can start planning for the little things; like our livelihoods, our employees' livelihoods and our businesses' futures for example
We have a government who shortly before the EU referendum had completely lost support from the people of this country. Now they are in a position where they need to both win back voters while at the same time doing what's best for the country. Sadly it seems that this is impossible so what we are going to get is an arrangement that will keep Leave voters happy while taking a vague gamble at the fact Brexit will benefit the country.
Despite the enormous number of Leave campaigners who insisted that voting leave was not about immigration, Theresa May has stepped forward today to confirm that it is all about immigration. In fact, Brexit is so much about immigration we are going to leave the single market so we can restrict the movement of EU citizens. While I am sure this statement is highly likely to get a sizeable number of Leave voters back on board with the Tories, there seems to have been very little thought given to industries such as ours that rely on the free movement of EU workers to sustain our businesses.
It is like Groundhog Day - Theresa May comes out of her den periodically to prognosticate that the future of the UK will be bright, then disappears without imparting any further information. However, this is no way to instil confidence in the businesspeople of Great Britain.
There are hundred of millions of pounds for the UK economy at stake within the modelling industry alone and unless we can get some answers pretty soon things are undoubtedly going to take a turn for the worse. An entire industry cannot operate on this kind of instability. Of course, I am sure that there will be plenty of people reading this thinking that we should put Brexit into perspective since it is 'just' the modelling industry, but if you do that you are missing the point. We are just one industry of the thousands out there. Brexit is going to affect everyone and hopefully by drilling down to one single industry you can see just how many problems it will cause across the entire country. Anyone who had dealings with the EU is going to be affected by Brexit, and we all need answers for the future and fast.
However, this is the whole problem with how Brexit is being handled - a small group of people attempting to negotiate something as sizeable as leaving the European Union makes it impossible to take into account every issue it will cause. I do not think at any time David Davies or one of his team ever turned round and said: "but guys, what about the modelling agencies?"
Modelling might seem frivolous to many people, but the fact is that the modelling industry is huge, and makes a sizeable contribution to the economy. London Fashion Week is one of THE events of the global fashion calendar. According to FashionUnited's Business Intelligence, the total income made from London Fashion Week is £322 million for the UK economy... and that's just two weeks of the year. The agencies themselves also generate millions of pounds to the economy every single year. Then there are the knock-on effects to areas such as the fashion, retail and beauty industries. They all rely on the model agencies for much of their promotional and marketing work.
As a global fashion hub, the UK will see hundreds if not thousands of models from the UK and EU flying in and out of the UK every single year for work. Freedom of movement is a massive incentive for clients across the world to work with British agencies. There is a very real threat that American, Asian and European businesses will take all their work to another EU country after Brexit because the visa/permit issues will be too much of a headache.
A clampdown on freedom of movement is going to affect the whole industry, to what extent we still don't know despite the referendum taking place six months ago. It is time for the government to stop making these vague promises and start making something like a plan that will help us prepare for the future. If the government decide that a restriction on freedom of movement is needed then on their head be it, but give the people who rely on it some indication of what will be replacing it!
Even if the modelling industry is not top of the list of priorities when it comes to leaving the EU, hopefully this will illustrate that there is much, much more to the Brexit negotiations than even the people in charge of it could imagine.