My Lords, it is a huge pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews—what a superb speech.
Last weekend I took part in the March for Europe from Park Lane to Parliament Square. It consisted largely of young people and families, all utterly concerned about and opposed to our leaving the European Union. All of them up to that point had seen their identity as bound up with Europe and now see an uncertain and more isolated future. I could not help reflecting while on the march on how my generation had let theirs down by voting in the way that it did and on how many in politics had failed to deliver a more positive message about the benefits and impact of being in the EU over the years, or to create a fairer society of the kind so well outlined by my noble friend Lady Manzoor yesterday and by the most reverend Primate. But whatever our regrets, we cannot afford to sit back and be buffeted by the consequences of Brexit. We need a steely determination to make the best of it and demonstrate to the no doubt overwhelmed Brexit unit how we can mitigate the risks and take the opportunities that arise.
Our tech, digital and creative industries currently punch way above their weight globally. We now need to develop a blueprint to show how they can continue to thrive despite not being in the EU and despite the uncertainties of the exit process, so they will be able more than ever before to benefit from the UK’s creative skills and culture. This depends on the UK in general and London in particular remaining a global hub for creative businesses. The essence of this is our continuing ability to retain, recruit and develop the best and most diverse talent from around the world.
Our film and video games studios, publishers, advertising agencies, music recording facilities and design and post-production houses depend on this flow of talent, failing which other locations within the EU—eastern and central Europe, for example—will appear more attractive. It would be deeply damaging if we or the EU erected barriers equivalent to those in the US, which mean that many UK musicians who plan to perform there find that visa-processing problems mean cancelled tours and postponed engagements. The truth is that the lack of free movement of talent will mean a less creative and diverse culture in the UK and will spell danger for the UK as a creative hub.
Individual parts of the creative sector have many unknowables. Will advertising services, that powerhouse of our creative economy, be subject to EU barriers when sourced from the UK if we are not in the internal market? Activities carried on by the audio-visual group are particularly vulnerable. The audio-visual media services directive has, since 1989, had a major impact by limiting applicable regulation to the country of origin. Almost a quarter of its exports are to the EU. It risks being caught between being unable to relocate production as it would fail to qualify as a British product—but, if so, not being treated as EU content. Once the UK is outside the EU, unless we specifically achieve a negotiated deal, the UK will no longer be able to come within the quotas applied by other European countries for their television broadcast services, which in some cases are as high as 70%.
In funding this type of product, every market matters, and if the EU falls out of the equation it could well mean that investment is no longer forthcoming to the same extent. Amanda Nevill, CEO of the BFI, has also warned of the impact on independent film-makers of the loss of EU funding from the Creative Europe programme. This adds up to the need to put in place at the very least greater government support for investment in these audio-visual products.
Then we have the digital economy, which is a vital part of our future. The digital single market being developed by the EU up to now was seen to be a cornerstone for the future of our tech and creative industries. We will now lose our influence on how regulations and intellectual property reforms are shaped, especially as regards the exceptions to copyright protection which are being developed.
We may also need to adopt safe-harbour provisions of the kind currently required between ourselves and the US in respect of data. Then there are the resources that will be needed now by government here and overseas through our diplomatic and consular services and UKTI in counteracting the impact of Brexit and, as Sir Martin Sorrell has said, targeting fast-growth markets. We need to redouble our efforts to promote Britain as a place to invest in, partner and do business with, especially in the creative industries. Just boosting the budget of the GREAT campaign will not be enough.
When we are outside the EU state aid rules, there may well be some opportunities through improved tax incentives to counteract some of these risks and to maintain the attractiveness of the UK as a destination for the creative industries. But I can see many other industries clamouring for special treatment, too.
I will continue to fight for the closest possible relationship with the EU. But what we need for this sector, as for others, is a cool appreciation of the actions we need to take and the deals we need to do to safeguard them. I am pleased that the Creative Industries Council is taking on this task, constituted as it is largely by a wide range of private sector players in the creative and digital industries, including television, computer games, fashion, music, arts, publishing and film, but co-chaired by Ministers from both BIS and the DCMS.
The Ministers and departments sponsoring our tech, digital and creative industries must immediately, as a priority, start working with the Brexit unit and with Justine Simons, the new deputy mayor for culture and the creative industries in London. It is vital, as she said last week, that we,
“maintain the flow of ideas and creative talent and shore up our cultural economy”.
I sincerely hope that this Government, whoever heads it, take heed of those wise words and recognise the importance of these industries to our future.