Brexit’s impact on culture and fashion industries: evidence from the UK Trade and Business Commission session

We are very pleased to be able to reproduce the Twitter thread from the UK Trade and Business Commission with their kind permission. The message was pretty clear: Brexit has been very damaging to a very valuable sector of our economy and to our soft power worldwide. It is also clear that the government appears to have neither the wish nor the wherewithal to address the issues faced by our creatives and performers. They have been “left high and dry”.

Please note that the session today was live tweeted and the quotes noted down and relayed as accurately as possible. They may not be absolutely verbatim but the essence is accurate. The highlights to draw your attention to key issues are ours and did not form part of the original thread.

In our first session, chaired by @TamaraCincik, we’re covering the fashion and music sectors. Our expert witnesses are:
@DeborahAnnetts of @ISM_music
– Simon Chambers of @StormModels
– John Horner of Models1
– Bespoke tailor director @paddygrant

“We have tried repeatedly to get in touch with Lord Frost without any success at all. We’ve been left high and dry to figure out the issues with the [Trade and Cooperation Agreement]TCA on our own,” says @DeborahAnnetts. “It’s incredibly frustrating for the sector”.

“If the Covid status is a proxy for Brexit, we’re going to see a very substantial decline in our income. There’s a lot of confusion. Some of the biggest brands in Europe don’t know what the rules are, so how are companies here supposed to know?” Says John Horner of Models1

My personal experience is that all our European business ended overnight. All the stores we used to sell to said they’d just order from someone else, and they’ll see how it goes. So the relationship is now entirely at arm’s length” says @paddygrant

All of our supply chains were completely integrated with Europe. We’d order zips and buttons from Spain or Italy and it’d be as quick and easy as if we were getting it from Manchester or Leeds. Thread used to take 2 days to arrive, now it’s 10 days.” @paddygrant

There is not enough work in the UK for musicians, says @DeborahAnnetts. “Our research shows 44% of UK musicians earned up to half of their income from working in the EU. That has all changed with the TCA. We’re now seeing lots of UK musicians relocating, principally to Germany

It’s not just about the money you make in the EU, says @DeborahAnnetts. “It’s about the money that’s reinvested in the UK. Losing business in the EU will ultimately have an impact on the UK economy.”

“The clients we have in, e.g., Spain used to want to book models directly from London. London was known as a cradle of development for this industry, but the barriers to send models over are now almost impossible to overcome. The process takes about 3wks.” SC @StormModels

“Our clients are now saying ‘no British models’, because it’s just too much hassle,” says John Horner of Models1.

And UK firms also now have to deal with new paperwork to bring European models here. So it’s a dual impact.

“During London fashion week about 40% of the 700 models used are European. We have to get visas for them where we never had to do that before. Models are at the front end of every fashion, hair and makeup brand. So you need models. But ours aren’t getting the work.” JH Models1

“The whole of the music industry is worth globally from the UK about £5.8bn. Taken as a whole the creative sector is worth the same as construction or finance. Music sustains 200k jobs. Music tourism contributed £4.7bn in spending to the UK economy in 2019.” @DeborahAnnetts

“We said to governmt they need to share guidance for musicians on how to tour. The government instructed Deloitte to create this guidance – but they don’t know anything about it, so the advice on DCMS website is now wrong. We’ve given them the info & experts they need” DeborahAnnetts

“From the day of Brexit we’ve been lobbying constantly with no response. The fact that the EU has said they can do a deal and the UK has said they can do a deal is absolutely farcical. It’s a Mexican stand off. And while this goes on businesses are going under.” JH Models1

Referencing @ISM_music research, DeborahAnnetts: “The hostile environment has extended to musicians coming to this country just to do a gig & particularly affects people of colour. Right at the heart of how our immigration/touring policy works there is institutional racism.”

“Music doesn’t recognise boundaries & borders in the same way that governments do, as creativity can come from anywhere. Something like the WOMAD festival is based on people coming from outside the UK. It creates economic activity.” DeborahAnnetts

“For a very long time our industry has relied on skilled sewing machinists from Europe, not only to create our samples but also the production of the volume of clothing that we then sell. As of today there is an enormous shortage of those people…” Says @paddygrant

“Training our own in UK takes 2yrs & requires investment. We saw about 20% of our staff leave & go back to Europe, & we’ve been unable to fill those vacancies. A starting salary for a sewing machinist is £15k, well below the salary needed by new immigration rules.” @paddygrant

“There are undercurrents of racism that tarnish the reputation of our creative industries in UK” Paddy Grant “We thrived as an industry b/c the best talent from all over Europe came here for an education & stayed, bringing their talent & flair. That’s starting to drop off”

“We are desperately concerned that some of the trade deals the government is considering will undermine the copyright rules in this country, reducing the GDP our industry generates in the UK.” A major point of consideration from DeborahAnnetts @ISM_music

Deborah says “we simply meet a brick wall” every time she and other industry experts try to put forth solutions to DCMS. “We’re hearing one thing from the PM but the reality from DCMS is very different because the responsibility to improve it lies with Lord Frost.”

“They want to be seen to be doing things, but they’re doing all the wrong things that have no impact on our business.” Says John Horner of Models1

“People working in the creative industries that go to a country to add value, their contribution needs to be understood as not displacing the local labour market, not part of the immigration rules. So it needs to be free movement.” Says Simon Chambers @StormModels

Our next session, chaired by Dame Rosemary Squire, covers live theatre and touring sectors, with expert evidence from:
– Kash Bennett of @NationalTheatre
@julianpbird of @london_theatre
– award-winning lighting designer @PauleConstable
– Craig Stanley of @MarshallArts

Our closest and most important international market is Europe,” says Craig Stanley.

“Artists have to travel internationally to develop. The Beatles went to Hamburg to become a band. And that’s as true now as it was then.”

“Phantom of the Opera has now grossed north of 6 billion dollars across the world, more than any movie has ever made” says @julianpbird.

Ensuring intellectual property and copyright laws remain intact is vital to maintaining that inflow of earnings.

“70-80% of my opera work is outside of the UK and the majority of that is in the EU,” says @PauleConstable, so it’s a massive loss. “Opera is a European art form, so it’s important that this conversation of hundreds of years is allowed to continue.”

We may see fewer shows touring the UK, says Kash Bennett, if touring problems aren’t resolved. “If a show went on tour for a year, and 6 months of that was in Europe, it was a guaranteed income. So the show could then work the next 6 months across the UK.”

“One of the people I spoke to recently in the sector said she had to make the decision about whether she was British or she was a musician” says @PauleConstable. “We’ve been marginalised. We’re not anyone’s first choice anymore because of the complexities of employing us.”

“If you’re planning a large scale tour, that’s 60 people on the road doing 40 weeks of touring across Europe. Getting 60 people into embassies is vastly complicated & expensive. It’s what we do when going to Aus or the US – but you need only one visa to go there” Kash Bennett

85% of specialist UK hauliers are considering setting up in the EU,” says Kash Bennett, due to the new cabotage rules. Otherwise they would lose the business as soon as the production moves from the UK to an EU country.

“No trucks means no tours” says Craig Stanley. “There’s not enough resource to take up the slack in Europe if we can’t use UK hauliers. We’re calling for a cultural exemption from the DfT. I put that to Lord Frost when I met with him & was saddened at his rejection on that ask”

“Every single graduate at the Royal Academy said they were looking to do further study or work outside of the UK, because they couldn’t see any opportunities in the UK” says @PauleConstable. There are a number of EU companies now advertising for EU passport holders only.

“We are already seeing calls for people to work on shows where people are insisting that those applying for roles have an EU passport. We’re talking about UK workers being shut out of jobs until these issues are resolved.” @julianpbird

“There is a route on bilateral agreements with individual member states in the EU and that will help with some of the issues. But we need to resolve the cross border issue within Europe to solve the problem for major tours,” says @julianpbird. Need to engage with the EU as a whole.

“We need Lord Frost to agree that these issues are included in the partnership council agenda in all further meetings with Europe as they look to refine the TCA. We need a commitment from the government that they are actively engaging in bilateral discussions,” says Craig Stanley

“Cabotage issues can be resolved unilaterally,” says Craig Stanley. “UK trucks can change to an EU registration and then return and ply their trade here. The statutory instruments for this could be introduced in September after the summer recess and be in effect by October.”

@PauleConstable gives example of an opera singer in Madrid who’s done 3 months of work, was offered another 3 months in Rome, but had to turn it down because he had run out of days from his 90 out of 180 limit. “A visa waiver would be a start but wouldn’t solve the problem.”

@julianpbird gives a shocking example of having companies considering asking workers not to holiday in Europe in their spare time, so as not to use up their 90-day limit. “It’s shocking, but it’s the reality.”

“I think the people at DCMS understand the problems,” says @julianpbird, “but they’re powerless to do anything about it.”

Craig Stanley agrees: “DCMS is impotent. The cabinet office is caught up in ideology. We want to make this new relationship work. But it’s political.”

A huge thank you to our two co-chairs and our witnesses today, @DeborahAnnetts, Simon Chambers, John Horner, @paddygrant, Kash Bennett, @julianpbird, @PauleConstable & Craig Stanley. Keep your eyes peeled for key snippets from the session on your timeline today.

Originally tweeted by UK Trade & Business Commission (@UKTradeBusiness) on 24/06/2021.