Select Committee hearings open on the cultural industries and Brexit 10/2/2017

The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has opened an inquiry into the impact of Brexit on the creative industries, tourism and the digital single market. At the first session on 31st January, Sir Peter Bazalgette was present to give evidence on his last day as Chair of the Arts Council, alongside John Kampfner of the Creative Industries Federation and Nicola Mendelson, also representing CIF, but with a day job as a senior manager at Facebook.  Sir Peter Bazalgette began by saying "some people have…regarded the referendum as being about Little England, and it isn’t about Little England, and post leaving the EU we are going to have to be more open to the world than ever before, and more open to the world’s culture. I think creative industries have an incredible role to play in that because of the way soft power helps our trade and political relationships across the world". Issues raised include:

  • A ‘red line’ for the sector is around flow of talent; 75% of the conversation at a recent CIF meeting on Brexit focused on this issue. Facebook is about to make 500 new hires in London this year, and is seeking reassurance that those already in post and those to come will be secure.
  • The appropriate IP legislation is also vital
  • Creative Europe brought £11m into the UK arts sector in 2014 – 15. This is a small amount of money in other sectors, but significant in the arts. Creative Europe has non-EU countries subscribing to it, and staying in would be desirable if possible. The same principle applies to other European funding streams.
  • Current figures underestimate how much EU money has supported culture. For example, the Sage in Gateshead was built after £6m of European money was spent detoxifying the land. This won’t have been counted as ‘money for the arts’. John Kampfner suggested that the Government should commission a better analysis.
  • Peter Bazalgette said that hiring staff from the EU is often essential to selling UK cultural product: they will know how to sell in markets they are familiar with.
  • There is an opportunity to make the visa system simpler. 90% of organisations in the creative industries have less than 5 people, and will struggle with complex bureaucracy.  Complex visas are a barrier to arts organisations of all sizes, with scenarios ranging from “your lead soprano falls ill, up till now someone from France can hop on a plane” to an orchestra tour which needs 50 visas.
  • John Kampfner said that although the UK is not facing upheavals comparable to the US, there is a ‘question of atmosphere’. The tone set by the Government will affect whether the UK appears attractive or uninviting. The tech sector is heavily populated by skilled, mobile young people who have a choice about where they live. Governments can’t entirely control whether a country is having an ‘up moment or down moment’. However, a ‘warm, inviting, open meritocratic message’ is working in Europe.
  • DCMS’ estimate that 6% of workers are non-UK nationals is a gross underestimate. CIF’s incomplete evidence gathering suggests 10 – 40%, typically 25% in a creative business. There are positive and negative reasons for this. The positive is the need for international people to identify global markets and sell effectively.
  • The negative reason for a large non-UK workforce in the creative industries is an education system which has deprioritised the arts skills needed in the sector. Design and technology qualifications have gone down by 41% in six years in the UK. Private schools are developing the right skillsets, but Ebacc-driven state schools are not. DCMS and DfE are now discussing this, prompted by Brexit, but it will still be five – ten years before the right skills become available, even if UK education policy shifts now.

MPs were receptive to the matters raised, but pointed out that the sector’s desire for flexible movement ‘doesn’t sit easily with the political environment at the moment’. The Government will have to find a path which does not prevent the creative industries from thriving but which will be acceptable to people who voted for Brexit., Arts Professional