Creative industry bosses clash over Brexit withdrawal agreement

The Brexit withdrawal agreement that prime minister Theresa May has returned from the EU with has been given a guarded welcome by a creative industries body.

Firstly, it represents "one step further away" from a 'no-deal' scenario which would be "devastating" for creative businesses, says the body -- the CIF.

Secondly, it confirms the "critical" transition period, scheduled to run from March 29th 2019 to December 31st 2020, the Creative Industries Federation (CIF) said.

This period, which is potentially extendable up to the end of 2022, will help reduce the "significant uncertainty" that creative firms have faced since the Brexit vote, CIF added.

'Hugely unwelcome'

However, ministers resigning since the PM secured the agreement with the backing of 27 EU nations is "hugely unwelcome," according to federation CEO Alan Bishop.

More positively, given recent concern about the UK's talent pipeline, the agreement specifies that EU citizens will be able to move to the UK to work until the end of the transition period.

And the reverse is true, so UK nationals who take up residency in an EU country during the transition period will be allowed to stay in that country after the transition, and a stay lasting five years will permit them to apply for permanent residence.

'Encouraging'

"It is encouraging that many of the key concerns around which the creative industries have been campaigning are at least acknowledged in the political declaration," Mr Bishop said.

"For example, references to the UK’s participation in Union programmes such as culture and education as well as the priority given to intellectual property, data, and temporary movement of talent. More detail is needed, but this is an important first step."

However according to thinktank the IPPR, the single most important conclusion from the almost 600-page agreement, which was published alongside a much shorter political declaration, is "that uncertainty will persist."

"The Brexit process will continue well into the 2020s, and the final destination remains unclear," the IPPR said, adding: "The lack of certainty about the UK’s future trading arrangements is likely to continue to damage investment in the economy."

'Regrettable'

Such a lack of clarity is exampled by the withdrawal agreement not guaranteeing onward movement rights (the right to freely move to other EU member states) for UK citizens who currently live in the EU.

The CIF, despite saying it is pleased at temporary worker movement being made a priority, appears to agree.

"It is regrettable that the political declaration on our future partnership with the EU did not go further, given the vital importance of ease of movement and frictionless trade of services for the creative industries," Mr Bishop said.

"The creative industries currently account for more than 9% of the UK’s total services exports and so disruption to this will have a major negative impact on the UK economy as a whole."

'Left out'

The federation is now calling on the government to provide "more clarity" on the final relationship between the UK and EU, pending further negotiations, in which it says it is "vital" that the creative industries continue to be a central focus.

But others disagree that creative companies are being included at all. "It's not what's in the 585 pages of the draft withdrawal agreement. It's what's been left out.," says C8 Associates, an IP advisory to creative firms.

"The creative industries are about people and most of the business has now moved online. Yet, freedom of movement and online market provisions are missing from the withdrawal agreement."

'Not apply to freelancers'

The advisory's chair Dominic McGonigal points out that the agreement's residency provisions and working rights seem to be limited to people currently living and working in another member state.

"They do not apply to freelancers who live in one country and want to work in other countries," he said. "Within the EU, a musician can tour in Europe, doing concerts in any number of countries without needing a work permit. That freedom is absent from the withdrawal agreement."

Mr McGonigal added: "Creative industries don’t ask for much from governments. This draft gives them almost nothing. The creative industries have been left out of the withdrawal agreement."

 

28th November 2018

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