Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson has warned the UK’s creative industries could be significantly weakened in the event of a No Deal Brexit.
In a speech hosted by the Creative Industries Federation (CIF) today at Somerset House, he said the Conservative’s policies were “draconian systems” that ran “counter to everything the UK’s creative and cultural sectors stand for.”
Watson highlighted how much of the creative industry relies on the support of the EU and the talent it produces. “A third of workers in visual effects come from the EU, as do a fifth of those who work in architecture, in video games, and in the performing arts,” he says. “We should be working to retain their talents, not rejecting their applications to stay.”
In 2016, before the referendum, a study by the CIF of its members found that 96% wished to remain in the EU and that 84% believed the outcome would be important for the future of the creative industries.
Design Week has reported on how the industry and its workers, both from the UK and the EU, may be affected post-Brexit. One of many propositions threatening the industry is the £30,000 salary threshold for getting a working visa.
The “crude approach”, as labelled by Watson, would put pressure on the country’s art and design sectors where “many skilled professionals’ salaries fall below [the threshold], including musicians, librarians, artists and graphic designers.”
“Cut to the very bone”
Watson supported his predictions for the UK post-No Deal by describing the current state of art and design under Tory leadership.
Despite being worth £100 billion to the UK economy and supporting over 2 million jobs, he says: “communities across the country have seen their theatres close, their museum opening hours curtailed, and the budgets for their local arts centres cut to the very bone.”
In response to this, Watson said a Labour government would be open to suggestions as to how to better support the creative industries, with tourism levies and creative industry tax reliefs just some of the initiatives being considered.
Supporting creative education
Watson ended his speech by reaffirming a Labour government would put creativity “back into the heart” of education. He called upon statistics from the Fabian Society which finds two thirds of primary school teachers say there is less arts funding than in 2010, and that half say the quality of what remains is worse.
Watson’s address included the prescient message: “if we teach our children to design new worlds, create new characters, evoke brand new experiences, then changing our world for the better might seem possible for them too.”