LONDON, United Kingdom — UK fashion businesses and institutions including the British Fashion Council, the Centre for Fashion Enterprise and the University of Arts London stand to lose access to hundreds of millions of euros in European Union funding if the UK exits the EU, following the result of last week’s referendum.
Beneficiaries of EU funds include the Centre for Fashion Enterprise and the British Fashion Council, which received £743,000 in EU funding from July 2011 to June 2013 for its London Show Rooms project.
Currently, UK fashion businesses are eligible to apply for EU funds like Horizon 2020, which has made €3 billion available for small and medium-sized enterprises from 2014 through 2020, or the EU’s programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (COSME), which has made €116 million available in loans to UK SMEs over the next two years.
Post-Brexit, however, UK organisations may no longer qualify for these funds, and it is not clear whether the British government will step in to replace lost EU funding.
The British Fashion Council (BFC) has received millions of euros from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which have been used to fund initiatives like London Collections: Men and London Show Rooms.
“Funding beyond 2018 has never been guaranteed and as such we have been scenario planning for there not being any available post that date,” Caroline Rush, chief executive officer of the BFC, told BoF. After 2018, when the BFC’s current ERDF funding project ends, “We will be putting our case to central government for ongoing funding and support,” she said.
The future of funds like the COSME programme will not be discussed until the British government triggers Article 50, and kick-starts the two-year deadline for concluding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. “There can be no negotiation without notification,” a spokesperson from the European Commission told BoF, with regard to COSME funding. “For the time being, nothing changes.”
The UK also stands to lose access to initiatives like the European Creative Industries Alliance, which provided support such as mentoring, training and workshops to 3,750 SMEs in 2014, and mobilised €45.8 million in funding for the creative industries.
Some venture capital firms are also backed by EU money. Venture capital firm Felix Capital, which launched last year with $120 million to fund European digital fashion brands and luxury tech start-ups, is backed by the European Investment Fund, a subsidiary of the European Investment Bank.
Following the referendum, the EIF issued a statement saying it "will not change its approach to operations in the UK" at present, but will work with other EU bodies “to define the EIF’s activity in the UK.”
Funding could also change for EU students at UK universities, where they currently pay the same tuition fees as UK students: £9,000 per year, compared to £17,230 paid by other international students. The University of Arts London, which comprises colleges including Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion, has promised current EU students that this won’t change before they graduate, but has not laid out plans for the fee status for new EU students.
Some bursaries, grants and scholarships — such as the Mead Scholarships, which offer UAL students awards of up to £10,000 — are also only available to UK and EU students. “Current EU students and those enrolling in September 2016 will be eligible to apply for the bursaries,” Nigel Carrington, vice-chancellor of University of the Arts London, told BoF. “Beyond that, it's hard to know what the funding landscape will look like."
Also up in the air is UK students’ access to the EU-funded Erasmus student exchange programmes, which over 3 million students took part in between 1987 to 2013. Since 2007, Erasmus has supported over 210,000 work placements and internships. Whether UK students will qualify for Erasmus post-Brexit remains to be seen.