The luxury sector’s response to the Brexit white paper

“Britain finally has a negotiating position for a post-Brexit partnership with the EU. The UK’s 98-page white paper, published on Thursday, seeks to recreate many aspects of the existing economic relationship between Britain and the EU for goods and services, short of the bloc’s free movement of people rules. On security, home affairs and participation in EU institutions, the document recognises the UK will not have a vote, but Britain still wants an active voice.” – FT.com.

Dear members,

I would like to again thank you for supporting the statement Walpole put out ahead of last Friday’s Brexit meeting at Chequers, and for all of your additional comments this week; the commentary and evidence you provided has been invaluable for the media outreach and our work with the CBI and policy advisors. A summary of Walpole’s Brexit position – including your views – has been shared directly with Dominic Raab, the new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, by both Walpole and the CBI team.

The Brexit White Paper – ‘The Future Relationship Between the UK and EU’ – announced on Thursday 12th July looks much more like a pro-business Brexit; Walpole welcomes the pragmatism of seeking a free trade area and a common rule book, which is crucial for British luxury businesses’ complex European supply chains. It’s also good to see some signals around access to talent, particularly with 30 to 60% of the British luxury workforce European.

On the whole the sector is cautiously optimistic that government is finally recognising the needs of business, but we are concerned that the proposed customs plan is complex, unwieldy and bureaucratic – and that is bad news for the SME’s that make up 60% of the British luxury sector, and whose growth could be stifled by the burden of costs it entails.

We are also disappointed to see that services have been excluded from the current proposals; as outlined in our Brexit impact report, services are hugely important for our sector and we will continue to highlight the impact and challenges for service businesses, and appreciate the evidence that a number of members have already provided.

Next steps: We are in the process of organising a roundtable with the senior team from the CBI to ensure the British luxury sector’s needs remain a priority and front of mind in advance of the next round of negotiations – this is currently being scheduled for mid-September. We also continue to welcome your comments and evidence.

Final thoughts: The white paper is certainly a step forward in providing some clarity around the UK’s position, and it is clear that the message given by the British luxury sector over the last 18 months is not falling on deaf ears. However, there is still a considerable way to go and a need to accelerate the progress now. The outcome will of course depend on the EU’s response and we will be impressing on our sister luxury associations across Europe to put their own governments under pressure to respond in a way that protects the luxury sector on both sides of the Channel – after all, London is the fifth biggest market in the world for luxury.

With very best wishes,

Helen Brocklebank, Walpole CEO

Please contact Charlotte Keesing for more information.