Brexit & The Arts: UK creative sector fears Brexit brain drain | The New European

Britain’s cultural industries are thriving but Brexit could have a stifling effect, warns Patrick McCrae as he talks to The New European.

It is easy to assume that visual art, if not politics, is in rude health in the United Kingdom when you see Banksy’s Devolved Parliament, depicting a House of Commons chamber occupied by chimpanzees instead of politicians, selling for a record £9.9 million.

Milestones such as this serve as a reminder that art is not only a multi-billion-pound global industry, it is part of our national identity.

How central to our identity it will be in the future is still to be determined. Art is rightly considered to be an investment that is more resistant to political upheaval than other commodities, but the impact of Brexit will be felt keenly across every industry, and we are approaching a fork in the road that will define the future of the arts in the UK.

The creative industries account for 5.2% of the UK economy. In 2017 they contributed £101.5 billion to Gross Value Added (GVA), a greater amount than the automotive, aerospace, life sciences, oil and gas industries combined. This is a part of the UK economy that is thriving, and it is paramount that its momentum is not checked. Yet the creative industries are set to lose more than £40m per year in EU funding and this comes at a difficult moment for the industry; Arts Council England has been forced to cut its budget by £156m from 2018-22.

This funding gap has been widely reported, but one potentially devastating aspect of the UK’s exit from the European Union that we’re not hearing enough about is how the proposed new immigration thresholds will disproportionately penalise European citizens working in the arts. The Home Office has to date floated two options: A £30,000 minimum annual salary threshold, and, more recently, a points-based immigration system like that in Australia.

Both will have a significant impact on creatives, many of whom work as freelancers or on a commission basis. According to the Creative Industries Federation, one in nine UK businesses fall within the creative industries, and these businesses employ more than two million people. More than a third of these workers are freelancers, compared to an average 15% across other sectors.

Of the two million people employed by creative industries businesses, 12.7% are international workers and 55% of these are EU nationals. For those creatives who are self-employed, invoices and payment can be erratic and don’t fit with the financial year.

One solution would be to treat artists as micro-entrepreneurs and give them special dispensation. Diversity, free exchange of ideas and freedom of movement are invaluable to the creative industries. They encourage innovation, and progress, and we will lose out both economically and culturally if we curb that spirit.

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