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Brexit: Movement of People in the Cultural Sector (European Union Committee Report) - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:02 pm on 15th May 2019.

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Photo of Lord Bilimoria Lord Bilimoria Crossbench 4:02 pm, 15th May 2019

My Lords, arts and culture have overtaken agriculture in their contribution to the economy: £10.8 billion. Sir Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre for 12 years, said:

“You will find nobody in the arts world who doesn’t think there is an enormous black cloud on the horizon in the shape of Brexit. We are so dependent on ideas, talent, people moving freely. Freedom of movement was nothing but good for us”.

Then there was the open letter sent to the Prime Minister last year, organised by Bob Geldof and supported by Ed Sheeran, Rita Ora, Jarvis Cocker and Simon Rattle. The letter asked for an urgent rethink on Brexit, saying:

“We are about to make a very serious mistake regarding our giant industry and the vast pool of yet undiscovered genius that lives on this little island”.

The letter predicted that the “vast voice” and reach of British music would be silenced in a “self-built cultural jail”. People will lose their jobs if there is no deal, or even the Prime Minister’s deal. Movement of people is crucial and everything will change if it goes.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Jay, on his very good opening speech, and his committee on its report, Brexit: Movement of People in the Cultural Sector. The report right up front states:

“The cultural sector makes a profoundly important contribution to the UK’s society and economy, and to its international image and influence. Cultural sector workers are highly mobile, and have thrived on collaboration with people from all over the world”.

So this is a story of Britain’s soft power and its partnerships around the world. The report also talks about the Government wanting to,

“‘take back control’ of the UK’s borders by ending the free movement of persons”.

The report highlights that the UK film and television industry alone contributed £7.7 billion to the economy in 2016. It also notes that, in museums, EU27 citizens accounted for,

“up to 15 per cent of the workforce”,

and that much heritage research in England has been,

“built around the model of free movement”.

According to the report, the City of London Corporation said that,

“the current non-EU visa regime would be ‘unsuitable’ for the cultural sector”.

Mark Pemberton, Director of the Association of British Orchestras, said:

“Unfortunately … musicians starting out in a career in an orchestra are not earning £30,000 a year”.

This is the threshold set by the Government’s migration White Paper. He continued:

“We are highly skilled but not highly paid. Sometimes, the people at the Home Office do not understand that. They assume that high skills equals high pay, and it does not in the creative sector”.

Would the Minister agree with that? Mr Pemberton also said that it was essential to bring in talent at short notice, including in an emergency if a lead singer or dancer falls ill or is injured.

The Arts Council highlighted very clearly the problem of barriers to ease of movement: 70% of respondents to its survey said that barriers would negatively impact their future and 75% told them that barriers would affect UK-based productions’ ability to bring artists and organisations into this country. The legal protections and frameworks that European Union membership provides are also seen as crucial to the industry.

The music industry alone contributes £4.5 billion to the UK economy. When the Incorporated Society of Musicians surveyed its members it found that 95% said that Brexit was a negative. Of the respondents, 85% visit the EU and work there at least once a year. The other aspect is that 77% of its members rely on the European insurance card. Every aspect of free movement is involved here. Two museum bodies said that,

“restricting movement of people could have a huge impact on the cost of museum exhibitions”.

One could go on.

In the food industry—the industry I deal with in my business on a regular basis—when the UK joined the Common Market in 1974, the country’s restaurants had a total of 26 Michelin stars. This year it is 163. This is because of the free movement of chefs and ingredients. What will it mean if we leave?

In the fashion industry, the Fashion Roundtable wants to maintain the single market, to continue involvement in EU cultural, educational and business programmes, and to provide legal guarantees. Some 96% of them would vote to remain and 80% of the fashion industry believes that Brexit would be bad for British fashion.

Going back to the musicians again, 39% of respondents travel to the EU more than five times a year. So this is not just free movement but free movement on a regular basis. Then we have carnets. If carnets have to be brought in, that will cost £1,000 to £2,000 per carnet. To put all this into context, three out of the five top-selling albums in the world in 2017 were released by UK acts.

Sir Nicholas Serota, the head of the Arts Council, said that the arts industry was such “an essential part”. It provides 360,000 jobs and £2.8 billion in tax alone. The funding from the EU that this industry is reliant upon is in the billions as well.

The Arts Council report, produced by ICM, concluded by citing:

“Negative impact of Brexit on UK reputation … Reduced freedom of movement”,

and its impact,

“lack of access to EU funding … Reduced freedom of movement of goods and equipment … Changes to legal and regulatory frameworks … Weaker … exchange”,

and “uncertainty caused by Brexit”. This is a catalogue of disasters.

I will conclude with an important point that the report highlighted: the whole aspect of immigration in more detail. Of course, we all know the famous Nigel Farage UKIP poster, which said:

“Breaking point: the EU has failed us all. We must break free of the EU and take back control of our borders”.

Noble Lords may remember that the poster showed queues of people. A number of politicians attacked that poster, which featured a photo taken in Slovenia. When Mr Farage is challenged on it now, he says that the Brexit Party would not use it as,

“immigration isn’t the burning issue of the time”.

Today, immigration is way down the pecking order of importance to people in this country.

Another report asked:

“What is to be achieved by ending free movement?”

The Prime Minister has said:

“We will do what independent, sovereign countries do. We will decide for ourselves”,

we will control immigration. The report states that David Jones, who was then Minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union, said that it was,

“our ambition to regain control of migration”.

That was contradicted by Robert Goodwill, the Home Office Minister, who said:

“This perception that we do not control our borders … is not a correct perception”.

He said that we do not participate in Schengen, and that we also have checks; we check every EU national who comes in.

The report then makes an important point in referring to the emergency brake that already exists. Will the Minister acknowledge that the brake exists, from the EU directive stating that if any EU citizen stays for more than three months, does not have a job and cannot support themselves, we as a country have the ability to repatriate them? Many other European Union countries use this regulation, but we never have. Will the Minister admit that we have always had control over EU migration but have just never used it? Looking back, when people were surveyed at the time of the referendum, 45% felt that immigration was one of the most important issues; today that has dropped to 25%. When Europe is looking outwards to the world, we are now looking inwards. This is a disastrous situation.

I will conclude with this. Nigel Farage says that democracy is what this is all about—but hypocrisy is more like it. The referendum is three years out of date. I have spoken on food prices, Erasmus, the customs challenge, consumer protection, EU security, the threat to students and dispute resolutions. Every single time we see that Brexit is a disaster. The best deal we have by far is to remain in the European Union.