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Brexit: Fashion Industry

Volume 789: debated on Thursday 15 March 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact on the fashion and other design-based industries of the potential loss of European unregistered design rights for United Kingdom-generated designs following Brexit.

My Lords, as expressed in the United Kingdom technical note on other separation issues, where the UK does not have existing domestic legislation to protect certain types of rights, it will establish new schemes. This will preserve the full scope of the unregistered Community design right in the United Kingdom.

My Lords, the hard exit from the EU means the loss of EU unregistered Community design rights and of vital protection for designers who first disclosed their design in the UK. This is just the way to lose London Fashion Week. We have discussed the problems with loss of country of origin rights for our broadcasters. Is this not yet another example of why the creative industries want us to remain in the single market?

My Lords, I am not going to get into the wider debate about the EU at this stage, but what I can say, to expand on my Answer, is that we will bring forward various statutory instruments in this country to further our rights here. The negotiations will take place with the EU as part of the leaving process, which we hope will deal with these matters, but there are also, as the noble Lord is fully aware, what I think I can call inclarities in the current EU regulations, which obviously need to be sorted out by the EU itself.

My Lords, in framing new law for the period following Brexit, will the Government be mindful that intellectual property rights create monopolies? Will they therefore reflect carefully on the appropriate balance within the UK’s future intellectual property regime between the producer interest and the consumer interest and make sure that they are not unduly influenced by producer lobbies?

My Lords, obviously we will take account of all those who have an interest. The noble Lord is right to draw that to my attention. He will be aware that we went through a major reform of intellectual property rights with the 2014 Act, which I think was discussed at length in this House—fortunately, I was not involved. I am not sure that the noble Lord would want to go through that process again, but there are some minor changes that need to be made as a result of leaving.

My Lords, not only will we need reciprocal arrangements with the European Union with regard to intellectual property, including unregistered design rights, but does the Minister accept that we will also need them with regard to enforcement of intellectual property rights, currently carried out in part by Europol? How will that enforcement be carried out?

My Lords, we have a problem of indecision. Organisations such as fashion week will disappear from London. The amount of GDP that fashion week brings to this country is enormous. As we are not doing very well in other parts of the world, we really need it to continue. Will the Government assure those industries that they are welcome here, and do so quite quickly, otherwise they will look to go to Paris and Milan, because they are asking and baiting them to come?

My Lords, the noble Baroness is taking a rather pessimistic view of things, but we are aware of those risks. When one thinks of the strengths of the industry in this country, I think it is very unlikely to leave overnight. We will be in discussion with people such as those at the British Fashion Council and listen to their particular concerns. As I said, we will continue with our negotiation as part of the leaving process.

Did my noble friend notice the highly successful Commonwealth fashion event the other week, which demonstrated that London fashion was roaring ahead regardless of Brexit? It involved wider-world influences in a highly successful and satisfactory way.

My Lords, sadly, I missed that, but I am very grateful to my noble friend for bringing it not only to my attention but, more importantly, to the attention of the House.

My Lords, as a dedicated follower of fashion—that gives away one’s age, does it not?—I would add that although the IP itself is important, we also need our lawyers to continue to represent any of our designers when they appear in courts in other countries. We also need the models and others to be able to move across borders so that they can perform or show their wares. Will the Minister give some assurance that, in the discussions on Brexit and the ability to move for work, this will be uppermost in their minds?

Yes, my Lords, we will take the point about lawyers into account, and I will make sure that the noble Baroness’s concerns are brought to the attention of my honourable and right honourable colleagues. As regards others such as models moving abroad, I think that there will probably be no problem whatever, because there will be a particular attraction to making sure that English models and all others involved in the fashion industry are able to work in Europe and sell their wares.

My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend can tell me whether we have any problem with the Americans, for example, behaving in a dastardly, unfair way, as Lib Dem Peers fear our European friends would behave if we were not in the EU.

My Lords, I think I had better confine myself purely to questions about fashion rather than other areas, but on that particular subject I can agree with my noble friend.

My Lords, does the noble Lord’s department have an estimate yet of how many statutory instruments will be required to fulfil the pledge he has just given us? Will those statutory instruments be by the affirmative or the negative procedure?

My Lords, on the overall number of statutory instruments that will be required, different people have put forward different estimates of very large numbers. As regards this particular subject, as far as I know, we need just one statutory instrument. There might be more, and I will write to the noble Lord if that is the case. Whether they will be affirmative or negative is again something that I cannot answer at this stage, but I will write to the noble Lord if a decision has been made.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on his excellent Answer to the original Question. The Liberal Democrats’ refusal to accept this clearly portrays a lack of confidence in this country’s ability to govern itself. Does he think that that is simply a lack of confidence in this country, or that it might be because the Liberal party will never be in government again?

I did serve in government with the Liberal Democrat party in the past. Whether that will happen again is a matter for speculation, but I suspect it is unlikely that I would be part of that, and one would hope that the Liberals would not be part of it either.