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Creative Industries Federation warns of ‘major skills crisis’ post-Brexit

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The creative sector in the UK is facing a “major skills crisis” if freedom of movement ends post-Brexit without a replacement that can support the industry’s needs, a new report has claimed.

Published by the Creative Industries Federation, the Global Talent Report concedes that an end to freedom of movement – as favoured by government – is likely, but sets out a series of recommendations detailing how immigration systems for EU and non-EU workers can best support the creative industries.

It argues that international talent is critical to the UK’s creative industries, providing the sector with the skills it is failing to cultivate domestically.

The report cites Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport figures that estimate that the UK’s music, performing and visual arts sectors employ about 12,000 workers from the EU and 11,000 from outside the EU. This is set against 269,000 people working in these sectors who are from the UK.

A survey of more than 250 businesses, undertaken by CIF, found that 75% employed EU nationals. Two thirds of these said they could not fill those jobs with British workers.

Ending freedom of movement would remove the “single most effective route to international talent” that creative businesses rely on, the document claims.

“Any new system of movement for EU workers must answer the needs of creative businesses if we are to prevent a major skills crisis in the wake of Brexit and maintain our position as the world leader in this sector,” the report says.

Should freedom of movement no longer exist, it demands that any new system must allow:

  • visa-free travel between the EU and the UK.
  • reciprocal rights for UK workers to move and work around Europe for short-term projects such as performances.
  • access to talent at short notice.
  • a route for freelance talent.
  • mitigation of extra costs and administration businesses would need to undertake.
  • employers to bring in EU workers without meeting the current non-EU salary requirement of £30,000.

Steven Roth, executive director of Scottish Ballet, said the company gained a competitive edge by having a cultural mix of dancers, which could be at risk if freedom of movement was restricted.

“For our British art forms and institutions to remain strong and robust, artistically exciting and creatively enriching, companies must be able to continue to attract the very best talent – exercising their prerogative to make decisions based on artistic rationale and repertoire requirements, rather than be constrained to take decisions based on sovereignty,” he said.

The report also makes recommendations on the system for non-EU workers. These include the introduction of a creative freelancer visa, which would help attract high-quality talent but also enable British companies to access these people when required.

Visas themselves need to be more flexible, allowing greater periods of time between engagements and making it easier to secure permission for multiple entries, the report adds.

CIF chief executive John Kampfner and chair Rick Haythornthwaite said in their foreword: “The world has widely interpreted Brexit as a sign that the UK is turning its back on the world. We must reverse that impression if we are to attract the talent that has made us a global creative leader. The cultural sector will be key to building our new relationship with other countries and maintaining our reputation as a country open for business.”

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