16 February 2018 | By Nicole Sykes Insight

Protecting the UK's creative crown

As the world arrives for London Fashion Week, CBI's Nicole Sykes reflects on what's needed from EU negotiations for our leading creative industries

Right now, designers, models and buyers from across the globe are flocking to our capital for London Fashion Week. What better moment to reflect on the contribution creative businesses make, and to ask what might be next for a sector that has a lot to shout about.

You only need to switch on the TV, put your headphones in or walk down the high street to see the impact of the creative industries on our culture. But what is sometimes overlooked is the enormous economic impact the sector makes.

At two million, more people work in the creative industries than in aviation or agriculture. Altogether, a city the size of Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds combined turning ideas into art, music and more, worth over £92bn a year. The UK’s fashion industry, on display on the Strand this week, makes up a staggering £28bn of that.

That economic impact is not limited to the shores of these isles. Brand UK is recognised across the world. UK artists delivered five of the top 10 best international albums of 2015. UK designers are responsible for the world’s fastest swimsuit, worn by athletes on Olympic level podiums. And, as a global leader in visual effects, the UK is changing the way the world sees film – creating everything from Fantastic Beasts to Wallace & Gromit.

But what does the future hold for this jewel in the UK’s crown?

In all the debates on customs arrangements and financial services passporting, we mustn’t forget that the creative industries will be an important part of the negotiations between the UK and the EU.

Making sure that trade between the UK and the EU operates smoothly and with as few barriers as possible is important for creative businesses just as it is for automotive firms. Independent crafters across the UK have leapt at the opportunity offered by e-commerce, and being able to guarantee next-day delivery to Europe can offer a competitive advantage in a thriving marketplace. Artists on tour have their schedules planned down to the minute, and are preceded everywhere they go by lorryloads of technical equipment and an army of engineers. Disruption to the movement of singers, sets and support teams must be avoided.

Ensuring the UK’s future migration system meets public concern and allows businesses to recruit the people they need is also important. That means a system where software engineers from overseas can work in film studios in Bristol where there are shortages, and that the world’s best hairdressers and makeup artists can work for just a few days in the West End this week. It’s also vital that the sector nurtures its own talent here at home, through apprenticeships and training programmes.

And for the creative industries, we need a comprehensive Brexit deal that allows businesses to keep exporting their services to the EU, as more than half our services exports go to our closest neighbours.

Broadcast is a prime example of where this is absolutely crucial. Global broadcasters have built a hub in the UK worth £1bn and, from their base here, they broadcast hundreds of channels into the EU through a kind of broadcasting passport. They only need Ofcom’s approval to send their programmes out to TV sets on the continent, instead of approval in every member state. Without this passport, companies will have no choice but to relocate some or all their operations to the EU – and the clock is ticking.

The world has come to London this week for the thriving creative ecosystem we have here in the UK. Every part of this ecosystem has an interest in the future relationship with the EU, and it must be part of the debate.

The creative industries are a perfect example of why Brexit matters to our economy and international standing.  It’s why we need transitional arrangements urgently – and why the UK needs a migration system that works for business. Then we will see this incredible sector go from strength to strength. 

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