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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 5:04 pm on 15th May 2019.

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Photo of The Earl of Clancarty The Earl of Clancarty Crossbench 5:04 pm, 15th May 2019

My Lords, I want to frame my contribution in two ways: first, through a discussion about the service industries more generally; and secondly, by addressing perhaps a wider definition of culture than that covered by this report, so ably introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Jay.

The first point to make is that the importance of the service industries—which make up 80% of our economy —is hugely underestimated, not only by the Government but by the Opposition’s leadership too. The creative industries’ contribution alone—£101.5 billion—is worth more than the automotive, aerospace, life sciences and oil and gas sectors combined, and is the fastest growing sector of the economy. The Arts Council states that 56% of exports in the arts went to Europe in 2014.

To take one example of the Government’s fundamental attitude towards services, I followed with a mounting sense of horror the regret Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, on 1 May concerning the treatment of services in the recent trade treaty between the UK and Switzerland, which refers only to future,

“exploratory discussions … in additional areas, such as … trade in services”.

Yet, as the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, pointed out, services are over half our trade with Switzerland.

Across the board, the service industries are being ignored in favour of goods—ignored by the White Paper on skills-based immigration, and ignored by the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration. In particular, the outward movement of British citizens offering their services in Europe is also being ignored. Yet every red line we put down on immigration, including the salary cut-off, will inevitably be reciprocated by Europe.

This brings me to my second point, which is that there urgently needs to be a wider acknowledgement of the shared concerns of the service industries. As the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, put it so well last week, “from banking to ballet” the service industries depend on free movement. The excellent, and still timely—nothing has changed—report says that,

“as our evidence confirmed, free movement between the UK, the EU, and vice versa, is crucial to the sector”.

The DDCMS may say it recognises the importance of outward mobility to the creative sector, as it has in its response to the report, but the Government certainly do not recognise its importance to the service industries as a whole, and this is deeply worrying.

Free movement is the overwhelming concern of those working in the arts. The report floats the idea of a permitted paid engagement visa but that is not the right road to go down for our creative industries in Europe. It will not have the flexibility required for carrying out work on our own continent and would demand a fast response and multiple visits over long periods. This route has already caused problems for both WOMAD and the Edinburgh Book Festival last year.

Instead, the more realistic recommendation of the Incorporated Society of Musicians—“realistic” is the key word because it is closer to the current arrangement, which cannot be improved on—is to have, at the very least, a low-cost, admin-light, two-year, multi-entry visa that would also allow onward movement. It has to be something that can be standardly applied across the whole of Europe for UK purposes. However, given that this agreement would have to be made with every European country individually, we are already in nightmare territory.

The ISM also asks for an expansion of the list of CITES-designated ports, to include Dover and the Eurotunnel, and a clarification of CITES regulations. There is a more general concern about the movement of musical instruments, props and scenery for theatre and other equipment and hardware in other areas of the arts.

I ask the Minister: will there be a dedicated hotline for all those working in the cultural sector to offer guidance on mobility issues? Will the Government provide an update on progress towards the cultural and education accord between the UK and EU mentioned in last year’s White Paper, The Future Relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union?

However, free moment is not solely about free movement per se. The EHIC or an equivalent needs to be maintained, as must the A1 certificate. What social security procedures are likely be agreed? Artists have experienced difficulty in obtaining an A1 certificate in the past.

One of the criticisms that Brexiteers always make is about the perceived bureaucracy of the Commission, but for the British public—travellers, workers and students—the bureaucracy is largely invisible. We know this from our experience in Europe. That is how free movement works, but for those who will be working in the service industries in Europe in the future, things will become more complicated and more bureaucratic, particularly if we leave the single market. Moreover, Brexit is already happening. Musicians are already losing work in Europe, as my noble friend Lord Jay pointed out, as are IT workers. It is obvious to ask this but, in a competitive situation, why would employers bother with the UK when so many other European workers continue to have access to the single market?

Some noble Lords will have read the long read in the Guardian last week by Timothy Garton Ash. He wrote:

“For everyone who is a citizen of an EU member state, this is a continent where you can wake up on a Friday morning, decide to take a budget airline flight to the other end of the continent, meet someone you like, settle down to study, work and live there, all the time enjoying the rights of a European citizen in one and the same legal, economic and political community. All this you appreciate most, like health, when you are about to lose it”.

There will be a massive gulf between what will ultimately be a narrow and mean technical solution applied to a professional activity and the kind of access to Europe available presently to all Europeans, however they engage with Europe. This raises the significant question of who will be eligible for visas in the creative industries and who will not. Will visas be available only to those who can prove formal cultural engagements? If so, it will exclude many working in the arts.

The term “cultural sector” is included in the name of this report, but the most meaningful cultural sector is surely Europe itself. It is Europe that artists, museums, academics, students and many others wish to engage with, and that is why I for one cannot accept any solution that fails to maximise that engagement for everyone and anyone who wishes it. It is vital that we remain a member of the European community. For those in the creative sector, who see more and more what the alternatives are, that position is strengthening.