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Post-Brexit UK must include EU theatre workers, says report

Those seeking citizenship in the UK are required to fill in an 85-page document. Photo: Shutterstock Those seeking citizenship in the UK are required to fill in an 85-page document. Photo: Shutterstock
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Arts leaders have demanded that EU workers already in the UK be allowed to remain after Brexit, or the sector’s “creative and commercial success” will be damaged.

A major creative industries report claims the “vital” issue was a matter of priority for the government after the UK voted to leave the EU earlier this year.

The report, which saw input from nearly 500 creative leaders, cites anecdotal evidence that the workforce at UK theatres may be up to 50% non-UK European.

One major unnamed London theatre reports that close to 40% of its staff were from elsewhere in the EU – an asset bosses claimed help them “welcome audiences from around the world”.

Put together by lobbying body the Creative Industries Federation, the Brexit Report stresses that freedom of movement had been of great benefit for theatre and dance companies.

It recommends the government should use Brexit as an excuse to revamp the visa system and make it “fit for the 21st century”, to gain better access to talent from both EU and non-EU countries.

The report reads: “Cheap and easy access to Europe has helped develop audiences for young talent and provided revenues that, in some cases, subsidise UK performances.”

It is “vital” the UK continues to “cultivate our own talent”, the report continues, as well as attracting the “best and brightest from around the world”.

The UK is expect to leave the EU in 2019, after a two-year negotiation period is triggered early next year.

The report highlights that the pound’s fall in value since the referendum in June had been both a boost and a big concern for the theatre sector.

In the report, several commercial producers claim it has had an “immediate impact” on their business planning, while the Edinburgh International Festival states its budgets and profits are now “more vulnerable”, as artists were insisting on payment in their own currency.

But the positive impact of increased tourism is highlighted for London, while the Royal Opera House was among theatres to report the pound’s fall had made it an “attractive business partner” for theatres in Europe, Australia, China and the US.

Last month, Cameron Mackintosh claimed the weaker pound had driven an increase in box office takings at his theatres.

The report also pushes for the government to maintain funding currently provided by the EU to the UK cultural sector if that funding were to stop.

It calls for confirmation the UK will continue to host European Capital of Culture 2023, and says the government should fully engage “proactively” in talks over the new Digital Single Market – which will impact copyright and data laws across Europe.

Royal Shakespeare Company executive director Catherine Mallyon said it was “imperative” that the government “thoroughly considered and prepared for” all the issues highlighted in the report.

Fergus Linehan, chief executive of Edinburgh International Festival, added: “We hope that forthcoming negotiations will take account of the vital cultural networks – both formal and informal – that have built up over the past 70 years, acknowledge the importance of our shared European heritage, and recognise that the wealth of the creative industries sector is predicated on our ability to attract the best minds to the United Kingdom and ensure that there are no barriers to our artists and creative entrepreneurs taking a leading role on the world stage.”

Creative Industries Federation founder John Sorrell said that any threat to the creatives industries would “imperil our wider economy”.

“That is why we need to be at the heart of the new government’s industrial strategy and negotiating priorities in coming months,” he said.

The full report can be read here.

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