What does Brexit mean for the creative industries?

By 18th August 2017 No Comments

It has been just over a year since the UK voted to leave the EU during one of the most controversial referendums in the country’s history. In the months since Article 50 was triggered, people from across all areas of the creative industries have been trying to work out what it means for us.

In a poll we ran on Twitter, 60% of you said you were worried about what Brexit will mean for the UK Film Industry, while the other 40% felt we’d adapt and survive. With so many opinions – on TV, in the papers, down the pub – it can be difficult to work out how, if at all, leaving Europe will impact the creative industries. We’ve tried to sum up the main areas that experts think we’ll see an impact in, as we move closer to leaving the EU.

Funding & Finance

According to a report by Arts Council England, over the last three years 9.3% of arts and culture organisations surveyed received funding from the EU Creative Europe programme, with a further 18.1% receiving funding from a mixture of other European funding initiatives. Smaller organisations were more likely to report being reliant on EU funding streams – meaning the UK Government would need to provide alternative domestic sources of finance to replace existing grants.

While these statistics sound frightening, it’s important to note that this was not the only source of income for most organisations. Larger organisations are well positioned to survive without EU funding.

In fact, the same report found that music, visual and performing arts alone sold £326 million of services to EU countries in 2014. If the UK creative industries keep producing high quality content then it seems unlikely that these sales would stop altogether, even after we leave the EU.

Free movement of people

Award-winning film director Ken Loach has said that Brexit will “throw a spanner in the works” of the British film industry, by preventing European nationals from working in the UK. Talking specifically about co-productions between Britain and other European countries, Loach argued that any unnecessary bureaucracy could damage our industry.

The flip side of this is that opportunities for UK talent might open up, if the UK government commits to supporting domestic productions. The UK film industry contributes a significant amount to the UK economy – the second largest contribution, according to an ONS report released early this year. So it would make sense that regardless of the outcome of Brexit, the UK Government would want to protect this.

Stories get stronger

Traditionally, times of strife have been good for the arts, with artists and producers using their storytelling skills to convey the sentiment of the country, or to galvanise people to action. We’ve seen this only recently, with the film I, Daniel Blake highlighting the scale of the problems faced by people ‘just about coping’.

Foodbanks up and down the country saw an outpouring of support, summed up by a volunteer from Islington Foodbank who said: “…many people were in tears and several were angry about what they had seen in the film. I believe there has been in increase in donations and offers of help as a result.”

The success of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk has also been attributed by some to our current political situation. Despite the fact that the film started shooting 3 months prior to the Referendum, the ‘Dunkirk spirit’ – Britain standing alone against the world – seems to have resonated more clearly with some viewers as a result of Brexit.

Online changes

‘Digital Disruption’ is affecting almost every aspect of our lives and the film and television industry is no exception. With streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon ploughing millions of pounds into new content – even Facebook is getting in on the action – there is arguably a brand new market for those working in production to grab a slice of.

Getting a film seen by an audience no longer relies on securing a theatrical distribution – digital marketing and online platforms can help producers reach potential fans directly. So, even with the uncertainty of Brexit, there are plenty of exciting opportunities for the industry.


Overall it feels like any threats to the creative industries caused by Brexit should be able to be weathered. The UK TV and film industry has grown 72.4 per cent since 2014, against the EU average of 8.5 per cent – suggesting that we have the talent and infrastructure in place to not only survive, but thrive.

What do you think? We’d love to hear from you, especially if you’ve already experienced something changing as a result of the decision to leave the EU.