Britain has always been a leader in the creative industries, but a question mark hovers over its future. At a time of Brexit, an NHS stretched to breaking point, and spending cuts, it is easy for industries that are doing relatively well to be overlooked by Government but to do so could be a disaster. This has never been truer than for the creative industries, who enjoyed a bumper year in 2016 (contributing £84 billion to the UK economy) but are largely ignored by policymakers. Yet the continued success of this sector is by no means guaranteed.
Brexit will have far-reaching consequences for the creative industries in a myriad of ways. One of the most significant changes is likely to be to freedom of movement, which could negatively impact the sector’s ability to attract key talent from overseas. Likewise, any requirement for British citizens to have visas to work in Europe could be costly and time-consuming. This will be problematic for anyone in the industry who needs to frequently work in European countries, e.g. musicians on tour. Plus, a business’ ability to protect its intellectual property (which is largely governed by EU law at the moment) could be significantly reduced, affecting everything from design to publishing, film and music.
Additionally, the future funding that Britain’s creative sectors get from EU bodies could be at risk. Figures from Creative Europe show that it supported 230 cultural and creative firms in the UK in 2014/15. There are questions over what will happen to this, and other similar funding streams, after Brexit, and the government should take steps to reassure bodies who might be affected.
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And it’s not just the questions over EU funding that could put the creative industries at risk. Continued cuts at both a national and local level have left many having to do more with less money. For example, it has been reported that Bristol Council will be cutting its arts budget by 40%, whilst Bath and North East Somerset Council is cutting all of its grants to arts by 2020. And with continued economic uncertainty, it is unlikely that the Government will prioritise any additional spending for the arts. Moreover, crippling increases in business rates could threaten venues, including theatres, up and down the country.
However, this is surely short-sighted. The creative industries are vital to our economy, and this will only increase after Brexit. The sector employs two million people (and rising) and is growing faster than the workforce as a whole. Last year the creative industries exported £19 billion to the rest of the world, including £644million in music exports and £1.3 billion in TV.
But the value of the creative industries isn’t just economic. The world without theatre, museums, music, art, video games and books would be dull and uninspiring. They encourage us to learn, boost our wellbeing, exercise our imagination and contribute to our national identity. They provide Britain with enormous soft power, moulding how we are seen through the rest of the world. Great British institutions such as James Bond, Harry Potter, Adele, Burberry, all create interest in the UK, attracting investment and draw millions of visitors from overseas. In London alone, it is estimated that ‘culture and heritage’ are the reason for 80% of visits, boosting London’s economy by £3.2 billion.
To their credit, the Government has introduced a number of measures to support our creative industries in the last few years, including tax relief on films (resulting in Hollywood blockbusters such as Star Wars being filmed in the UK), high-end TV and animation. They have also invested in skills, put coding onto the curriculum and acknowledged the importance of the industry in their new industrial strategy, by making the creative industries one of five key sectors.
Yet there is still much to do. If we want to protect them for the future, it is essential that the industry lobbies the Government and that they work together to meet challenges on the horizon. The creative industries deserve a seat at the table as much as any other and should be at the forefront of Government strategy.