Boris Johnson warned of Brexit’s impact on creative industry freelancing

The fallout from creatives and freelancers being neglected in Britain’s post-Brexit immigration system could hurt up to eight in ten companies, Boris Johnson has been warned.

Boris Johnson warned of Brexit’s impact on creative industry freelancing

In a letter to the new PM, industry body CIF says that if firms are no longer able to take on European Economic Area workers on under £30k, over 80% of firms will face “challenges.”

But the proposed salary threshold – a “blunt instrument” the body said after the poll of its member firms, is not the only incoming policy seeming to require Mr Johnson’s intervention.


In fact, despite officials this week trumpeting the UK’s creative industries as “world-leading”, 10% of its employers may lose the EU freelance worker they currently have.

Although the finding is dependent on the precise migration arrangements that the UK ends up putting in place with the EU, it stems from an authoritative survey base – 700 creative firms.

The Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC), which ran the survey, pointed out that under the UK's current plans, EU freelancers face foregoing their access to the UK workforce.


Produced last year by the Migration Advisory Committee, the relevant policy states that EU citizens should have today’s “preferential access” to live and work in Britain brought to an end.

“[Creative firms] that employed EU migrant workers were much more likely to report being worried about recruitment and retention of talent…in the event of Brexit,” says PEC.

According to the centre, 50% of creative firms engaged freelancers in the last year; 37% hired only UK nationals and 13% non-UK nationals. Of the latter, 10% were EEA freelancers.

'Negative impacts'

“The implication is that perhaps one in ten businesses in the creative industries employ a freelance worker who are unlikely to gain access to the UK workforce in the event of the UK leaving the European Union,” PEC wrote in a report on the findings, The Migrant and Skills Needs of Creative Businesses in the UK.

Yet in a sign of a wider dislike at the current Brexit-immigration package for creative Britain, even employers without UK, EEA or non-EEA freelancers on their books aren’t optimistic.

“When asked about likely impacts of EU exit on their sector, the majority of employers identified negative impacts,” the centre said, after quizzing the 700 organisations.

“[These ranged] from loss of international business and loss of talent to labour mobility restrictions and [a] drop in EU funding.

“Taken together, the survey findings provide strong evidence for the need for the government to consider the different workforce needs of different parts of the creative industries when formulating policies.”

'Not good for culture'

But confidence in the government, run by its new head Mr Johnson, to rise to the challenge posed appears to be very low.

In a 360-person ballot opened by the Museums Association on its Twitter page, an overwhelming 95% of voters said ‘No,’ the new PM’s government will not be "good for culture."

Supporters of the new cabinet – including perhaps the five per cent who said ‘Yes’ in the ballot, will likely point out that the creative industries and the cultural industries are not one and the same.

'Vital contributors'

But the duo’s usage of freelancers (‘disproportionately large’ according to the DCMS) is one of their many unifying factors. It’s a fact not lost on the Creative Industries Federation (CIF).

“Freelancers, who make up a third of workers in the creative industries (compared to an average of 15% across the economy), are vital contributors to our sector’s economic and cultural success, and must…be accommodated under any new immigration system,” the federation has told Mr Johnson in its letter.

“The creative industries will not maintain their extraordinary level of success if they do not have access to a diverse mix of talented people.”

The CIF added: “There are concerns that the devaluing of creative education alongside an immigration system that restricts access to vital international workers will threaten the pipeline of exceptional creative talent, which has secured the UK’s creative industries as world-leading.”


Using the same two-word phrase on Wednesday, the Treasury said Creative Sector Tax Relief had poured in £1.1billion in the last year, benefitting the likes of the hit BBC show Killing Eve.

Officials added that since it was introduced in the film sector in 2017, and then expanded to seven other sectors, the tax relief has supported jobs and economic activity UK-wide, further to helping the nation’s creative businesses “thrive at home and abroad.”


8th August 2019

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