Brexit: Industry fears immigration curbs will mean less creative talent

A new report from the Creative Industries Federation reveals that the main concerns around Brexit within the sector are around access to talent and skills, funding and trade, and copyright regulation.


A report has been published showing the creative industries’ main concerns following Brexit are around access to talented people and EU funding.

The Creative Industries Federation has released the Brexit Report, which looks at the impact of leaving the European Union on the UK’s creative industries and creative education. It also makes suggestions on what could be done to “secure the future” of the sector.

The report is a joint project between the Federation and the Creative Industries Council, and is based on evidence from 500 contributors collected at 11 meetings held by the Federation nationwide. It has also been presented to the Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

Concerns were raised around four main areas – talent and skills, EU funding, trade and investment and regulation.

Talent and skills

Leaving the EU will mean tightened immigration laws, and therefore greater restrictions on freedom of movement of people between the UK and EU countries.


  • There are skills shortages in disciplines such as animation, visual effects and video games, which are currently filled by EU and international workers. EU nationals make up over 6% of the UK creative industries workforce. Harsher rules around immigration would cause the skills gap to widen.
  • VISAs may only be distributed to EU nationals based on high salary or education level – but creative talent does not always correlate with having a PhD or a high wage. Neither does this consider freelancers, who work on a project-by-project basis.
  • EU nationals make up a high percentage of creative students at university level, with 16% at the Glasgow School of Art and 13% at the University of the Arts London. They will be charged an international fee to study in the UK, and so will be deterred, meaning we lose potential talent.


  • The UK Government should ensure that EU nationals currently employed will be able to stay.
  • Skills shortages should be taken into account when assessing immigration, with a review of which occupations have shortages.
  • Creative talent should not be judged on earnings.

EU funding

The UK currently receives funding from EU schemes such as Horizon 2020, an €80 billion (£72 billion) initiative for research and innovation, and Creative Europe, a programme supporting the cultural sectors.

When the UK leaves the EU, it will be at risk of losing access to such funds, though chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond has said that funds granted before this year’s Autumn Statement in November are guaranteed even after the UK leaves the EU.


  • EU funding has helped to build museums, support small creative businesses, encourage cultural diversity through partnerships and boost local economies through the European Capital of Culture programme. Loss of this funding will have “serious consequences” on UK cities.
  • Although the Government says that projects with contracts signed before November 2016 will be fully funded, this leaves uncertainty for funds currently in development which have not yet been confirmed.
  • Loss of funding will result in some areas of the UK becoming culturally deprived, which could cause greater social divides.


  • The UK should continue to take part in the European Capital of Culture programme.
  • The Government should create business and investment support programmes for the creative industries, and a new access-to-finance support scheme for small and medium sized businesses in the creative industries.
  • The UK should still participate in the Horizon 2020 programme and Creative Europe. If this is not possible, the Government should commit to other funding for research and development, and creativity.

Trade and Investment

The creative industries have faster growth than any other UK sector – the design industry generated £71.7 bn in 2013 to the UK’s economy, and roughly 1.5 million people are currently employed as designers. Exports of creative services and products make up 9% of all UK exports. Leaving the EU could mean limits on trading between the UK and EU countries.


  • The UK is an “international hub” for the creative industries, and access to the EU is “crucial” to maintain this.
  • The EU received the majority of the UK’s creative industries services exports in 2014. 80% of UK businesses trade with the EU, and this is valuable for small, creative businesses.
  • New trade agreements and export markets may mean new intellectual property (IP) and copyright laws, which could put designers’ work at risk.


  • The creative industries and Government should join together to keep access to EU markets, and to tackle trade barriers. Freedom to invest in or gain investment from EU businesses should also be retained.
  • IP and copyright protection should be made a priority.

Regulation and IP

Access to the EU’s digital single market, and to protection from EU copyright and IP laws, could be undermined when the UK leaves the EU. The Digital Single Market allows free movement of digital goods and services across EU member states, and also regulates copyright of digital content.


  • The UK provides good copyright protection under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 – but many rules around UK copyright are actually derived from EU Directives. For example, UK product and furniture designers currently benefit from an EU ruling which grants protection of aesthetic design, as well as functional design – this would no longer apply. UK businesses may need to apply for both UK and EU trademark and design protection after Brexit to be fully protected.
  • Reduced copyright protection would put UK businesses at a “competitive disadvantage” compared to competitors, as would lack of access to the Digital Single Market.
  • Building new trading relationships with non-EU countries could also help to increase copyright protection, as cooperation is formed with overseas countries – but it’s also important to maintain cooperation with the EU.


  • The UK should maintain cooperation with Europol and other European law enforcement agencies.
  • It should assert its voice in the World Intellectual Property Organisation, and should continue to be associated with the Digital Single Market.
  • It should also develop a similar law to the EU’s Community Unregistered Design Right, which protects aesthetic design.

To read the report in full, head here.

Hide Comments (4)Show Comments (4)
  • HomeGrown October 31, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    It may mean less creative talent diversity, of course, but it will also enable more home-grown talent (like my nephew) to have more opportunities to fill positions and develop themselves and be brilliant, and not waste their expensive college education rather than be forced into the restaurant or retail industry. Good times ahead and better choice and career prospects for home-grown designers and design graduates.

  • melvyn goodinson October 31, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    I never like these articles, Brexit doesn’t mean less creative talent! Just in our creative industry they don’t like to take risks… We have plenty of talented designers but they get over looked! I remember being a graduate from undergrad and applying for 1000s of jobs and only getting 2 interviews in 2 years! I had to go study an MA to get where i am.

    All the industry wants is experience and a lot of universities don’t offer a placement year, we are flawed from the start at undergrad level! BUT i can see the importance of experience now being 2 years in the industry, just studios and companies need to take these risks, universities need to set grads up properly and we wont need to relay on immigration to boost our design talent…

  • RitaSue Siegel October 31, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    I have been trying to determine how many Americans are currently employed as designers in the US. Would the author of this article please let us know how they define who is a designer and how the figure was determined? Thanks in advance.

  • Howie October 31, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    The whole thing feels like a racket. “Hey, we fear taking handouts from the government to get jobs will dry up, and then we won’t be able to easily import talent to do the jobs.” Um, what?

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