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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:17 pm on 17th April 2018.

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Photo of Chris Evans Chris Evans Labour/Co-operative, Islwyn 3:17 pm, 17th April 2018

We have to pay them.

Last month I met Gail Renard, chair of the Writer’s Guild. She was one of several people who came to meet me to talk about concerns about the impact of Brexit on the creative industries. Gail is a very interesting character. She met John and Yoko at one of their famous bed-ins. As I am a big fan of the Beatles, our meeting went on from half an hour to two hours while she told me everything about John and Yoko and their fantastic life together. But the one thing she wanted to get across to me was the real concern about freedom of movement.

The Creative Industries Federation has recommended that the Government implement sufficient structures to replace freedom of movement. The problem for those of us who were remain Members of Parliament in leave constituencies is that when we knocked on doors we were told that the No. 1 issue was freedom of movement—we were going to take back control of our borders. As we have seen, not only in the creative industries but in others, we were told that there were simple solutions to complex problems. Many people did not know about access to the single market or the customs union. The issues were not properly explained, and that was the problem with the Brexit debate.

That is why we are where we are. The problem is that selling freedom of movement to our constituents will be difficult. When they see “freedom of movement,” they think about immigration. They worry about immigration, and that is a problem for a British success story. Let there be no doubt: the creative industry is a growing sector of the economy. It is worth £92 billion—up from £85 billion in 2015. The sector makes more than 5% of the UK’s gross value added product. However, all that would be impossible without European funding. If we are to lose funding from streams such as Creative Europe, as well as part of the workforce, when there is no more freedom of movement, the future of the creative industries looks bleak.

Earlier this year, entertainment industry leaders expressed concerns about freedom of movement and other post-Brexit uncertainties at a House of Lords Committee sitting. It is high time the Government listened to them. The chief executive of One Dance UK has said that freedom of movement is a vital part of its business model. Its members travel to the EU for work eight times a year, on average. A poll conducted by the Musicians Union when it held an event here a year ago with Equity found that only 2% of the music industry believed that Brexit would be good for them. An industry that produced the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and countless other bands that broke America is worried about the future. However, the key issue expressed across the industry is that, because of unique working patterns that involve a lot of travel, freedom of movement is necessary for its continued success.

I agree with the right hon. Member for Wantage that Prime Ministers have not discussed the arts very seriously. The creative industries seem to be a bolt-on. They are not taken as a major contributor to the British economy. The sector provides a wide variety of jobs and career opportunities for people across the UK and Europe. Harry Potter, James Bond and Marvel films have been some of the highest grossing productions of the past decade. Only this week Robert Downey Jr. was welcomed to south Wales for the filming of a new Marvel film. We want to welcome more people like him. Many of those productions have been filmed primarily in the UK and across Europe, with a significant British and European workforce. In 2016 alone there were 131,000 EU nationals working in the British creative industries. Freedom of movement for workers in the creative industries is key to the success of those projects.

If we lose freedom of movement, we run the risk of limiting the production of international projects in the UK. Can you imagine, Mr Bone, if that situation affected the banking, construction or manufacturing industries? I am sure that the debate would be packed with speakers, but the creative industries seem to fall to the back of the queue. It can go on no longer. If international film production companies or musicians using large European workforces believe that it will be too difficult or costly for EU nationals to enter the UK to work, they will simply go elsewhere. I agree with the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire that there will be countries in Europe, and around the world, rubbing their hands together waiting for the creative industries to leave here and set up there.