All Parliamentary discussion: Visas & Immigration post-Brexit & the creative industries

Paula Gazzard.jpg

Following a consultation last year, 23 January saw the publication of a DCMS Select Committee Report The potential impact of Brexit on the creative industries, tourism and the digital single market and The Lords debated the issues on 19 January

On Wednesday 24 January, ten All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) came together at Portcullis House on the need to secure mobility of creative talent post-Brexit. The APPGs cover the breadth of the UK’s creative sector, including: Visual Arts, Craft & Design; Children’s Media & the Arts; Dance; Design & Innovation; Music; Music Education; Performers’ Alliance; Teaching Profession; Textiles & Fashion; and Video Games. 

Under the banner ‘Drawn Together’, each of the speakers outlined diverse challenges to the cultural sector presented by possible restrictions on freedom of movement and asked that trade talks with the EU will create a future visa/immigration system that takes account of the needs of freelancers, artists, performers, and creatives. 

Paul Blomfield MP, Labour Shadow Minister for Exiting the European Union, spoke first pledging his support. He was followed by Jack Powell from the Creative Industries Federation, which has recently published an influential report, Creative Freelancers, setting out the Brexit 'redlines' for the creative sector, including a call for a freelancers' visa system. Naomi Pohl Assistant General Secretary of the Musicians Union (on behalf of the trade unions of the Performers’ Alliance) outlined the likely impact of restricted movement on touring and exhibiting. 

Jo Twist, CEO of UKIE, the association for UK Interactive Entertainment, made some extremely welcome comments about the crucial role played by fine artists, performers, and musicians in the digital, gaming, and visual effects industries and the likely impact of Brexit on this vibrant sector. This is a welcome counterpoint to the Bazalgette report's arguably overly-narrow focus on the high-value digital media industries. In order to keep our place among leaders in the global creative industries, it is vital that all of its sub-sectors are able to flourish. 

Paula Graham-Gazzard for CVAN drew attention to the overwhelming majority of UK creative leaders who see freedom of movement as even more important even than funding [Global Future report – Dec 2017]. Nevertheless, funding is important and 70.8% of artists are concerned about the impact of Brexit on touring and showcasing [ACE Survey]. 64% of the UK's key cultural institutions have acted as lead partner in European festival, network, or platform. Creative Europe's investment for 2014-2020 is EUR 1.46 billion funded 230 UK cultural organisations (to 2016) and distributed 84 UK films including Slumdog Millionaire. ACE's Brexit survey indicates 93% of arts organisations have accessed EU funding and that small organisations will be hit hardest, reducing our already fragile diversity. Meanwhile 2010-2015 has seen 16.6% fall in UK cultural funding, hitting the regions hardest. 

CVAN also drew attention to the importance of European Structural and Cultural funds to regional regeneration and creative clustering as well as the issues raised by attempting to impose economic and funding models from STEM onto the creative and cultural sectors in frameworks such as the new KEF and AHRC creative clusters funding calls. Finally, CVAN voiced support for CIF's creative immigration redlines and called for more consultation by Government with the cultural sector on modelling a post-Brexit creative economy. 

At this point, the British restraint which usually characterises this kind of event was suddenly all over as Bob & Roberta Smith (contemporary artist, as well as writer, author, musician, art education advocate) took the podium. We started with audience participatory chanting of pro-creativity slogans colourfully painted onto 'idiot boards' for us - but as Bob & Roberta became visibly moved, the whole room was caught up in the very real emotions shared by so many artists and creatives surrounding Brexit and anxieties about becoming 'cut off' from creative European culture. 

Following Bob and Roberta Smith's moving intervention, Sharon Hodgson, MP, closed as APPG Chair to be followed by a surprise speaker in the person of Mick Avory, drummer for the Kinks for many years. Mick spoke eloquently and anecdotally about the barriers he and the Kinks had personally experienced in moving around Europe prior to the UK joining the EEC in the 70s - and it was an unexpectedly cautionary tale including frequently having their equipment searched and dismantled by border police as well as visa regimes being used in anti-competitive manoeuvring. 

A joint letter to the PM signed by cross-party MPs will ask that, if the UK replaces the current system of freedom of movement within the European Economic Area, any future visa/immigration system must:

  • Allow best possible access to EU talent and skills the sector needs, by providing a system that is quick, open and flexible to EU creative talent.
  • Enable UK creative workers to continue to work abroad easily and with minimal restrictions, in terms of cost and administration. 
  • Provide reciprocal, visa-free travel for UK creative workers to continue to tour, perform, work and exhibit easily in Europe on short term projects, such as performances and shoots. 

These issues will obviously also be a key area of focus for CVAN's national campaigning work going forward and we will keep the network updated on developments. 

View the minutes for the event here