Businesses need action, not words

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Fashionizer’s response to Theresa May’s letter to EU citizens

We’ve all had a few unexpected emails in our in-box, but today’s surprise message for some of Fashionizer’s staff was from PM Theresa May. She’d emailed an open letter to our team’s EU citizens, with the aim of reassuring them of their importance in the Brexit negotiations.

We are not averse to the concept of an open letter – we wrote one ourselves to the Business Secretary Greg Clark – but we had something definite to say about safeguarding SMEs in a post-Brexit UK. That was a year ago, and as a business we feel we are not much further forward than we were just after the vote.

Back in June 2016, our concerns rested on the ease with which we currently trade within the EU, the low costs of importing, exporting, the ability to source fabrics and manufacturers outside the UK and our freedom to choose the best people to join our team. We were also keen to ensure that everyone knew Fashionizer was still ‘open for business’ while the negotiations moved forward, but at the moment it is not quite clear what ‘forward’ means. Here’s why:

  • We can’t make accurate financial forecasts as we don’t know whether we are going to have to get into the murky world of tariffs in order to trade economically within the EU. There are so many potential outcomes too; attempting to plan on the basis of multiple scenarios would mean the business spending more time on spreadsheets than designing uniforms.
  • We still don’t know what will happen to our EU nationals. They have made a life here in London, they have invested in Fashionizer and we in them. They have skills we want and which are essential to us. As it stands, they don’t know if they will have to leave or pay to stay, or what their rights will be.

It is this level of uncertainty that is making UK businesses jumpy. We’ve already had to manage the hit on the currency exchange rates – that’s quite a big one for companies that trade internationally. In terms of recruitment, the pool of applicants has shrunk; EU citizens are, understandably reluctant to apply for jobs with no guarantee of what their position will be in 18 months’ time.

So did the PM’s letter do anything to alleviate our EU citizens’ worries? Well, no. Nor did it give Fashionizer any sense of security about what will happen to our staff. It is decisions, not words that will make the difference, and that’s something that those in power need to move to the top of the priority list.

Right. Back to you, then Mrs May…

Picture: The Fashionizer team



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