Government under fire for omitting creatives' movement from Brexit deal

The pre-Brexit business models for much of Britian’s creative industries are no longer workable, to the extent that many individuals and performers will be forced to quit.

Issuing this stark warning to the government, peers said the lack of provision in the Brexit deal on the EU movement of such UK creatives ‘poses a serious existential threat.’

Badly hit by coronavirus, these creatives are now in the first stage of recovery from the pandemic, yet that too could be derailed because of the touring and performing “restrictions” under the deal (the Trade & Cooperation Agreement).

'Continuing to pursue headlines'

Sitting on the European Affairs Committee the peers also said that, on top of to the shackles of the in-force December deal, the UK government is, in effect, making a bad situation worse.

“The government is failing to engage with the industry in a constructive way [and] continuing to pursue headlines rather than deal with the very serious issues accurately and substantively,” the committee said.

“It is putting performers at risk by providing inaccurate guidance, and….is failing to take the decisions and steps necessary to support the creative industries.”

'Lack of coordination'

Addressing Lord David Frost in a letter, the peers criticised a “lack of coordination across the multiple departments and agencies involved in supporting and regulating the activities of the creative industries.”

And fresh from taking evidence from Bectu, Live Touring Group and the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM), the Lords scolded the government.

In particular, they criticised it for its “reluctance to engage with the industry, or the government’s counterparts in the EU.”

'Poorly served'

Ominously for those hoping for a fix, it is work undertaken by the UK government at the EU level which could achieve waiver agreements for UK creatives, and similarly, issues with permits and visa could be resolved with each member state.

Speaking before the peers wrote to Lord Frost, but ahead of today's Autumn Budget 2021, the Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) at Nesta said that the UK’s freelance creatives were being “poorly served” by the UK government’s policy infrastructure.

Pressed for specifics, PEC's Eliza Easton told FreelanceUK: “An example…is the migration system, [given that] there is no visa option for many self-employed people who are as skilled as their fully-employed counterparts.”

'Reform Global Talent Visa'

In their Autumn Budget submission, Nesta's PEC asks the government to open a consultation around the existing Global Talent visa, to ensure that relevant awards relate to areas like product design, advertising and games.

Concerned about the channels open to UK creatives travelling in the other direction – to EU nations, the House of Lords European Affairs Committee said: “Without the opportunities provided by easy travel to the EU, and the ability to continue to participate fully in the EU’s cultural life, musicians and creative professionals will be forced out of the sector.

“This will result in significant losses to the UK economy, and to the UK’s international standing as a cultural force and the significant soft power that this affords the UK.”

'Arrangements for creative professionals'

On top of working and engaging at the EU level to sort permits and visa waivers, the government is recommended to assess “arrangements for creative professionals,” among other individuals, who want to enter the UK to perform and tour.

“We… urge the government to use its best endeavours to work with the EU and the member states, and on its own initiative, to find mutually beneficial solutions to the problems identified, to step up coordination across the many government departments and agencies involved, to implement a coherent and unified approach, and to resist the temptation to overstate progress made in any discussions and negotiations” the committee said, adding:

“[We hope] that, by doing so, the government can rebuild trust with the creative industries and provide the support they need to adjust to the post-Brexit era.”

'Helping creatives adjust to the new EU relationship'

Today, Nesta's PEC will be hoping to see changes from Rishi Sunak on Wednesday to the proposed High Potential Individual Visa, to benefit the UK design sector, its submission to the chancellor indicates.

And implying that the sought tweaks from the centre might be welcome, Lord Frost has said that the UK government’s focus is on “helping creative industries adjust to our new relationship with the EU.”

Unfortunately the three expert witnesses quizzed by the peers; Bectu’s national secretary Noel McClean; Live Touring Group chair Craig Stanley and ISM’s CEO Deborah Annetts, took issue with the phrase -- partly for being an oversimplification.

'Existential threat to the entire industry'

Not only is the adjustment “far from simple,” submitted the trio, but they also deduced that there is “insufficient work within the UK to sustain performers’ careers”.

Lord Frost is further told, almost warned in the letter: “[Our] witnesses were clear that these restrictions posed an existential threat to the entire industry and that, for legal or viability reasons, much of the sector could no longer adhere to its pre-Brexit business models.”


27th October 2021

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