Leaving the EU: Tourism and the Creative Industries — [Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 17th April 2018.

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Photo of Christine Jardine Christine Jardine Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland) 2:30 pm, 17th April 2018

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the effect of the UK leaving the EU on tourism and the creative industries.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone, and to have the opportunity to debate the effect that Brexit could have on tourism and the creative industries in the UK. These are two vital and vibrant sectors of our economy, which I believe have largely been overlooked and underestimated in the Brexit debate. Their annual contribution to our economy needs to be acknowledged and protected. If Brexit goes ahead—I believe it is an “if”—these sectors will need special measures to prevent jobs from being lost and income draining from the economy.

It is no exaggeration to say that tourism and the creative industries are linchpins of our economy, which we cannot allow to be sacrificed on the Brexit altar of Conservative party self-preservation. Many of the millions of jobs and livelihoods that these industries support could be lost if we do not stop this dangerous economic self-harm. While they are significant separately, they also come together in some of our most iconic popular and cultural events, such as Glastonbury, the Proms and—for me, in my constituency, the most significant example—the Edinburgh International Festival and its Fringe. The Edinburgh festival is the biggest and most successful event of its type in the world, and has experienced seven decades of success—unending, growing success. It is a fantastic and awe-inspiring month-long festival of music, theatre, arts, books, comedy, street performers and now politics, but even it will not be immune to the threat posed by Brexit. You do not have to take my word for it, Mr Bone. The director of Festivals Edinburgh, which leads efforts to promote the city’s flagship events around the world, has said:

“There is a sense of threat and risk and making sure that Brexit doesn’t put us in a worse position.”

There are plenty of figures that illustrate the argument for both industries needing protection, but I will look first at tourism. Tourism encompasses about 250,000 small and medium-sized enterprises across the UK, and its growth is on a par with that of our digital industries. It supports approximately 3 million jobs, which are spread across every single local authority in Britain; this is not a problem that affects only one part of the country. Tourism brings in about £127 billion a year to the UK—9% of GDP. Around 37 million visitors come here every year, and in 2016 almost 70% of those visitors and 44% of what they spent came from other EU countries. Eight of our top 10 in-bound tourist markets are other EU states. Those visitors may now think twice about coming here. The UK’s tourism earnings from Europe will not be easily replaced by other markets, such as the USA and China, which require long-haul journeys and are much more difficult to access. In my own city of Edinburgh, almost 2 million international visitors spend £822 million a year—the figures are quite staggering. It is clear that if tourism begins to fail, or the industry begins to shrink, many areas, particularly our rural communities and parts of Scotland, will suffer badly. As I pointed out, jobs in every area of the country will be under threat.

There is a clear link to the hospitality industry and attractions, where, coincidentally, 50% of the workforce in Edinburgh come from other EU member countries. Those workers are now worried about their ability to stay and work in this country. The ripples of a decline in visitor numbers will reach far into other sectors of the economy—for example, aviation.