I spend my time between London and Sevilla in the south of Spain. I’ve lived in Spain for 11 years and spent 18 months commuting weekly between Madrid and Lisbon for work before settling in the south.
The day Britain voted to leave the EU I cast my vote and then hopped on the Eurostar to France. My plan was to spend a week in Paris watching some Euro 2016 football and then travel by train to Sevilla for a two week holiday stopping overnight in Barcelona and Malaga. News that the Leave campaign had triumphed cast a completely different light over the whole trip. In fact it has cast a massive shadow over everything.
My first publishing deal was in Spain. The royalties aren’t huge, but they are at least protected by only paying tax at source rather than at both ends. I doubt that my meagre writing income is high on Theresa May’s list of negotiating demands but the problem is larger than you might first think. Here’s a statistic for you. The creative industry accounts for 1 in every 11 jobs in the UK and it is the fastest growing part of the UK economy according to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
To say that BREXIT and the triggering of Article 50 have created shock waves through the creative industry would therefore be something of an understatement. BREXIT has massive implications for our industry on so many levels. Remove free right of passage and you threaten concert and theatre tours, and film and television production. Remove EU funding and you threaten artistic institutions. Remove the right of EU citizens to work in the UK and you cause a huge skills gap in museums, galleries and orchestras.
Put another way, how can there be a European City of Culture programme that doesn't include the likes of London, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Leeds? How do you accurately quantify the social and economic value of what we do? It's hard right? Well that's our challenge because it is more important than ever that artists are able to communicate the value of art.
Exports of UK creative services and goods (everything from architecture to visual arts, with a bit of Harry Potter thrown in) account for 9% of all UK exports. Over 40% of these services and goods get exported to EU countries. Some orchestras and theatre companies have estimated that close to 50% of their revenues are earned through tours to EU countries.
Creative Europe, the European Commission's framework programme for providing support to the culture and audiovisual sectors, provides financial support for co-production opportunities between UK and EU partners. Access to EU markets, the availability of EU funding, and UK tax relief all drive our ability to attract US-based film and TV commissions. Now these things are threatened, or at best uncertain, will we start to see these commissions disappearing?
It’s worse than that I’m afraid. There are signs it’s already happening. Just imagine the UK film industry without the possibility of Pinewood Studios making films in the Star Wars franchise.
The 2016 Creative Industries Federation "BREXIT report" highlights 4 key areas of concern, Talent and Skills, EU funding, Trade and Investment, and Intellectual Property and Regulatory Frameworks. The report lays out a series of recommendations for the UK government that are designed to protect the industry, but what's clear from reading the report is just how important what we do is to the UK and Brand Britain.
Art isn't just art. It's also a commodity, a product and a service. And that means it has an intrinsic value. Think about how much TV shows like Downton Abbey and Sherlock are worth to the UK. Think about the value of our film and TV production studios, or the value of our galleries and museums. But don't just think about this from a cultural perspective. Try and put a financial figure on it. I know this is often hard but it's vital we all understand the financial value of what we do. If we don't then it's practically impossible to protect it and, as we aren't the only industry impacted by BREXIT, we'll fall behind in the race to persuade the UK government to protect us.
Perhaps the best way we can help ourselves however, is by continuing to be the best in the world at what we do. In isolation we’re just individual artists with small books sales. But together we have huge economic value to UK PLC.