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An Open Letter on the Threat of Brexit to Creative Working Opportunities

The MU, Equity and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain have urged the Government to come forward with guidance and to stand up for creatives at the ongoing negotiations.

Published: 28 October 2020 | 12:00 AM Updated: 28 April 2021 | 4:31 PM
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Let touring musicians travel.

Musicians, actors and writers face hardship caused by the pandemic, which has put a stop to live performance and new commissions.

At the same time, uncertainty caused by Brexit means finding new work after the transition period ends in January looks more and more challenging as the final countdown begins. Many performers represented by the unions say they need opportunities to work in Europe more than ever.

In a letter to Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, the unions write, “At this time of extraordinary disruption to performers and writers, the full impact of Brexit and crucially, what we need to do to prepare remain unclear.”

They call on the Government to clarify their position on ensuring creative work across Europe remains viable for British artists. They also ask for the Government to set out its position on copyright and the position of the arts in future trade deals, amid fears that the impact of leaving the bloc on the creative industries is not top of the agenda.

The Government should make their position clearer

Horace Trubridge, MU General Secretary, said:

“We lack any clear information on what the Government is doing to ensure performers can take up work opportunities in Europe after January. Our members need to know they will be able to work and travel freely before they can plan their jobs. The Government should make their position clearer."

Not the time to close off opportunities

Ellie Peers, General Secretary of the Writers’ Guild, said:

“With most British writers being self-employed and already experiencing hardship due to a lack of new commissions across the sector, now is not the time to be closing off opportunities to work.

“Equally its vital that British writers are not disadvantaged compared to their European counterparts when it comes to copyright protection and the ability to benefit from ongoing use of their work.”

Now is the time for the Government to provide reassurance

Paul W Fleming, General Secretary of Equity, said:

“The pandemic has hugely hit incomes of a wide variety of people working in theatre and performance – performers, stage managers, costume designers and others.

“Our members still have bills to pay. If working in the industry becomes unviable, the rest of the country will miss out on the arts and culture they love for years to come. Now is the time for the Government to provide the industry with reassurance that it won’t be unnecessarily disadvantaged due to Brexit.”

The full text of the letter

Dear Minister,

We are writing to you about the urgent issue of workers in the creative industries preparing for the end of the Brexit transition period. At this time of extraordinary disruption to performers and writers, the full impact of Brexit and crucially, what we need to do to prepare remain unclear.

You are aware of the major shock to the industry as a result of the pandemic, with many performers facing economic hardship. The UK cannot afford to close off working opportunities for an industry which contributes over £100 billion a year to the UK economy and employs over 3 million people.

It is clear and perhaps understandable that the impact of Brexit on the creative industries in not at the top of the Government’s negotiating agenda. But we are concerned this will mean issues for our industry, caused by the combined shock of Covid-19 and the permanent change of Brexit, will not be addressed at all.

On 16 October, the Government published guidance for DCMS sectors on preparing for Brexit, but guidance for the creative industries was omitted. Does the Government intend to publish more information? In the absence of that information, could you answer the following questions:

1. How have the Government adapted its approach to negotiations on reciprocal visa arrangements for performers as a result of Covid-19?

2. What actions are the Government taking to make long-term working opportunities in Europe as easy as possible for creatives?

3. Can the Government confirm that it is pursuing reciprocal and free or affordable visa arrangements for those travelling to and within the EU when performing at cultural events and on tours?

4. Will the Government take forward the overall aims of the EU Copyright Directive through domestic legislation?

5. What recent economic assessment has the Government made of the effect of diverging from the EU on copyright in the creative industries?

6. How will the Government ensure that creators and artists have the same level of protection as those in the EU and the UK remains an attractive home for creative businesses?

7. What consideration has the Government given to including culture and arts services in future trade deals?

Many of our members face economic hardship and many fell through the cracks of the Government’s support packages introduced since March. Secondary jobs in hospitality and schools, for example, are now also at risk for many musicians, performers and writers. You will therefore appreciate the importance of providing certainty and reassurance that the Government is doing all it can to ensure maximum working opportunities that are so desperately needed.

Many thanks in advance for your attention on these issues.

Yours sincerely,

Paul W Fleming, General Secretary of Equity

Ellie Peers, General Secretary of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain

Horace Trubridge, General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union

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