Expert View

Creative industries should act to stop bad Brexit script

by Denis MacShane | 29.01.2018

Denis MacShane is a former Minister of Europe and was a Labour MP for 18 years.

A little-known money spinner for London is the sale of TV series from all over the world to European television stations. 85% of all the shows that are watched in Europe but made in other countries – whether English-language series from the US and Australia or Latin American programmes for viewers in Spain and Portugal – are sold out of London.

London hosts this niche industry – worth £2 billion and employing 10,000 people – thanks to our EU membership. Once the British TV regulator, Ofcom, gives its approval to the content of a programme made outside the EU, then no other national regulator in Europe can prevent it being sold and shown – assuming, of course, that a local TV station buys it.

That’s how the EU’s single market works, and leaving it will kill the industry. It’s easy for these firms to up sticks and move to another city in order to keep selling in the EU without hindrance after Brexit.

This is just one example of how Brexit will hit our creative industries. Today the Creative Industries Federation has produced a report warning that the combined £36 billion of exports from the sector – 5.2% of total UK exports – may be at threat. A survey accompanying the report revealed 80% of industry leaders fear Britain “will not maintain its global reputation post-Brexit”.

The report makes several demands on government, including:

  • continuing the UK’s “active role” in new EU legislation which will affect creative businesses;
  • access to creative workers from the EU, and for UK workers moving temporarily over to Europe for performances, shoots and the like;
  • continued participation in agencies, such as the EU Intellectual Property Office, and funding programmes such as Creative Europe;
  • protection for UK intellectual property, design rights and trademarks.

These admirable aims can all be met by staying in the EU, or at a minimum staying in the single market and customs union. So does the Creative Industries Federation make this demand?  Does it mobilise its members to talk to non-fanatical MPs and urge staying in the EU – or at last the single market and customs union?

The answer is sadly no. It wills the end – maintaining unfettered access to Europe – but refuses the means to achieve this by going out and shaping political opinions. The Federation reflects the attitude of other British business, which is to complain about the disastrous effects of leaving the EU but not campaign to change public opinion. Until business raises its head and voice, the partisans of hard Brexit will keep winning.

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

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