Alan Bishop talks Brexit

As Brexit continues to drag on without out resolution what could no-deal mean for the creative sector? IAM spoke to Creative Industries Federation (CIF) CEO Alan Bishop to find out why his organisation is backing a second referendum, and what plans his team are putting in place should the worst happen. 

IAM: What lobbying efforts are CIF currently undertaking in the effort to avoid a no-deal Brexit?
Alan Bishop: Following the result of the referendum, we have both advocated publicly and worked closely with government to ensure that the needs of the creative industries are heard and understood. This has included everything from hosting a sector-wide conference offering insight into some of the most important issues around Brexit for the creative industries; bringing together experts from across the sector with politicians; gathering evidence from representative bodies, our member organisations and from the sector to feed back to government directly; spreading the word about the dangers of Brexit for the sector and therefore the UK as a whole; and pulling together guides, workshops and webinars to support the sector through this significant period of uncertainty.

More generally, it has been important to continue to make the case for how vital the creative industries are to the UK as a whole, in order to have the sector’s concerns taken seriously. We are the UK’s fastest-growing sector, and are creating jobs four times as quickly as the wider economy. We are worth more than GBP101.5bn (€116.5bn) in GVA [gross value added], and are responsible for almost 10% of all service exports.

Further, 87% of jobs in creative occupations are at no or low risk of automation in the future, meaning that the development of creative skills is central to the creation of a robust workforce. And, of course, the work the sector does makes a difference to the lives of every single person living in the UK.

IAM: What is CIF’s position on a second referendum?
AB: Last week, we publicly updated our stance on Brexit, which is to urge our political leaders to consider a second referendum rather than risk crashing out of the EU.

In it, I said that: ‘We have now reached an undeniable cliff edge, and it is imperative that our political parties do what is necessary to prevent the extreme damage that will be caused if we crash out of the EU…although further uncertainty will of course be challenging for the creative industries, this presents less of a threat to the country’s prosperity than leaving the EU without a deal.’

We have also joined forces with other businesses and leaders outside the creative industries to strengthen this stance, for example through this letter to The Times.

IAM: What are you hearing from your members at the moment?
AB: Freedom of movement, both in terms of people coming to work in the UK but also regarding individuals from the UK working around the world, remains one of the most significant challenges facing the sector and an area that our members are, quite rightly, hugely concerned about.

We recently surveyed the sector on this, and around 51% of respondents were in favour of abolishing the Tier 2 Visa salary threshold, while 26% were in favour of significant changes. In the creative industries, high skills do not often equate to high salaries, and many highly skilled jobs do not command a salary of GBP30,000.

It is also extremely concerning that the recent Immigration White Paper does not recognise the challenges faced by freelancers within the current immigration system (35% of creative workers are self-employed). Given the strong levels of growth and potential growth within the creative industries (81% of creative enterprises expect to grow in the next three years according to our recent report on growth), it is fundamental that we ensure the sector has access to the full breadth of talent that they require.

Access to international talent promotes growth, leading to the creation of more jobs in the economy as well as the development of the domestic workforce by bringing them into contact with the best and brightest in the world.

IAM: Most CIF members voted to remain. Are they confident they can survive Brexit?
AB: Whatever happens, we are confident that our world-leading creative industries will continue to grow and strengthen, and will an integral role to play within the UK’s reputation around the world.

IAM: Is there any chance that Creative Europe funding could be replaced by funding from the UK government?
AB: The value of Creative Europe funding extends beyond the money itself to include the connections and partnerships forged with other EU Members States. The value of Creative Europe funding is irreplaceable, and this is why we will continue to fight for UK organisations to be able to apply for EU programme funding beyond the guarantees that have already been given.

IAM: In the event of a no-deal Brexit, how will CIF support its members?
AB: We will ensure to understand, represent and drive forward the needs of the sector whatever the outcome. Where subsequent reform or support is necessary, we will continue to advocate for this within the highest levels of government and elsewhere.

We are also already offering practical support to help our members to prepare for the different possibilities of the coming months and years, and will continue to do so. For example, at the end of January we are running a webinar for our members with the Home Office on the EU Settlement Scheme, and in February we are running a workshop with law firm BWB, which will offer practical advice and support to creative enterprises and entrepreneurs on forthcoming changes to immigration law.

IAM: What do you see as the best-case outcome for Brexit the moment?
AB: After the referendum result, we shared our Brexit Red Lines – the areas of most concern to the creative industries, and those behind which we committed to throwing our full weight. Those red lines have not changed, and can be viewed here. Although those priorities have remained the same, the means through which they might best be achieved has obviously changed as the political circumstances have developed. We will continue to advocate for the option which best delivers the priorities outlined by the creative industries in our Brexit Red Lines – the worst possible scenario, and that which must be avoided at all costs, would be to crash out of the EU without a deal.