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UK's creative industries are better off in Europe

Blog
22 June 2016

As voters head to the polls in the referendum, it’s worth reflecting on what a Remain or Leave vote might mean for the UK’s creative industries.

The creative industries have been one of the great success stories of the UK economy in recent years.

Take the studios sector, for example, which has boomed thanks to the growth in big budget international dramas and films shot in the UK.

Studios here have hosted a raft of films and TV shows such as Warner Bros’ upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Netflix’s The Crown or HBO's Game of Thrones, reflecting how the UK has become one of the pre-eminent global production hubs. The picture above, for example, is of Tom Cruise filming The Edge of Tomorrow on the backlot at Warner Bros’ Leavesden Studios.

International talent and finance has flowed into the UK, coursing through the extensive supply chain that supports production – whether Soho vfx houses or Belfast studios.

Figures show that the UK’s creative economy is growing much faster than its European neighbours. Employment in the UK’s creative industries has risen three times faster than in the EU as a whole, according to Nesta. The UK accounts for 14% of the total EU workforce, but 21% of all creative industry jobs. Clearly, the EU is doing very little to hold back the UK creativity.

In fact, having access to a single market of over 500m people has been a boon. The EU is the largest export market for the UK’s creative industries, totalling 56% of all overseas trade in the sector, according to the Creative Industries Federation. Pact figures, meanwhile, show that Europe accounts for 31% of UK television exports, just behind the lucrative North American market.

Creative industry executives say it is vital that the UK stays in the EU so it can influence regulatory decisions which may have a bearing on future trading. Others point out that EU funding has supported films like The King’s Speech or development organisations like Screen Yorkshire.

Most importantly, though, the UK’s status as a creative hub is enhanced hugely by the free movement of talent, capital and cultural exchange within the EU. The UK is by far the biggest recipient of foreign investment in the EU. We are a bridge to Europe for Hollywood studios, many of whom base their HQs and their biggest films here.

A vote to leave would be unlikely to change all this overnight. But EU markets would likely become harder to access, which would gradually have an impact on the UK creative sector, harming its current status.

Creative hubs are fragile constructions, and there are many competitors looking to steal the UK’s crown. Why put it all at risk on the 23 June?

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