In March 2016 the Equity Council agreed the following position with regards to the EU referendum:
- Council reaffirms Equity’s support for the TUC General Council Statement on the European Referendum.
- Council believes that it is in the interests of the union and our members to remain in the EU on the basis of the net benefits of EU membership for the creative industries but will also express how the EU must do more to protect and promote the rights of creative workers and agrees to make this report available to the membership.
- Council will also continue to express concern about the actions of the European Commission with regard to the negotiation of international trade agreements and the undermining of collective bargaining and social protection in Eurozone countries following the financial crisis.
During April and May 2016 Equity members were informed of the Council’s position in advance of the vote and Equity took part in several public events to publicise our position.
In November 2016 Equity supplied evidence to the House of Commons Culture Media and Sport Select Committee Inquiry into the impact of Brexit on the creative industries, tourism and the digital single market.
In December 2016 Equity worked with Shadow Culture Minister Kevin Brennan MP to raise a parliamentary question about the lack of workforce representation on the Government’s Creative Industries Council.
In March 2017 Equity’s London branches hosted an open meeting on Brexit. A wide ranging discussion took place over the course of two and a half hours on funding, employment rights, mobility, healthcare and EHIC cards, pensions and a number of other issues. This informed revisions to Equity’s briefing material for parliamentarians.
Also in March 2017 Equity met with Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital and Culture to discuss giving creative workers a voice in Brexit. At that meeting Equity was invited to submit an application for the Creative Industries Council – no news has been received on this application to date.
In May 2017 Equity released a joint statement with Prospect, the FDA, the Royal College of Midwives and the Professional Footballers’ Association responding to the CBI’s call for government to establish a Business Brexit Taskforce. The statement argues that Government needs a plan to consult and involve employees and their representatives, particularly in crucial sectors such as healthcare and entertainment: http://unions21.org.uk/news/dont-forget-the-workforce-on-brexit-talks-unions-publish-open-letter-to-new-government
During the General Election in May/June 2017 Equity called on all political parties to protect and promote the creative sector and the workers in our industries.
In July 2017 Equity, the Musicians Union and the Writers Guild of Great Britain organised a drop in lobby for MPs and Peers in support of each union’s Brexit campaigns. Equity asked parliamentarians to sign a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport calling for a seat at the table for creative workers alongside employers being consulted on Brexit. They were also asked to have a picture taken with cards saying ‘I support a voice for creative workers in Brexit’. Over 70 MPs and Peers came to the event and just under 50 signed Equity’s letter.
In September 2017 Equity took a motion to TUC Congress asking the TUC:
(i) to lobby to guarantee the rights of all EU nationals currently in the UK to live and work after the UK withdraws from the EU;
(ii) to highlight the contribution of EU nationals to the creative industries;
(iii) to campaign for Northern Ireland to continue to have an all-Ireland agreement in respect of Freedom of Movement and the right to work with no restriction on either nationality;
(iv) to lobby at EU and Westminster level for the retention of investment that the EU has put into both sides of the Irish border for film and television production.
Also in September 2017 Equity took part in a Brexit Forum event organised by Unions 21 which took place in Portcullis House, Westminster. Angela Eagle MP chaired the event which included a speech from Equity member Laurence Bouvard. Laurence spoke powerfully about the importance of international workers to the UK’s creative industries, which in turn are crucial for the health of the UK economy. The event also included contributions from scientists, footballers and NHS professionals as well as employers’ representatives. Equity invited One Dance and PACT to the event to represent employers in the creative sector.
In October 2017 Equity and the Performers Alliance APPG organised a Q&A event on Brexit with John McVay (Chief Executive of PACT but representing the Brexit working group of the Creative Industries Council, a sub group of the DCMS) and Arts Council England.
In late October 2017 Equity took part in a roundtable event on Brexit, bringing together stakeholders in the arts, media and culture industries and representatives of the Creative Industries Council organised by the Labour Shadow Culture Team.
In January 2018 Equity and a number of other arts and creative industry groups and organisations hosted a lobbying event for MPs and Peers on the issue of freedom of movement in Portcullis House. In advance of the event members were encouraged to write to their MPs asking them to attend and to express concern about future visa and other restrictions on the ability of creative workers to tour, perform and work easily in Europe post-Brexit, and on the ability of creative businesses to attract world talent.
In March 2018 Equity briefed Thangam Debonnaire MP in advance of International Trade Questions in Westminster. Thangam put the following to Greg Hands (Minister for Trade Policy): “Representatives of the live performance part of the creative industries tell me of their worries, based on current experience of touring theatre, dance and music outside the EU. Will he, like the DCMS Minister, the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Margot James), agree to meet representatives of the creative industries to discuss those significant challenges so that this massive growth sector of our economy can continue post-Brexit?”
The Minister responded “My colleagues and I are always happy to meet representatives of the sector. The sector’s export growth, and its activity both in the European Union and beyond, is actually growing. Only 34% of the sector’s total global exports are to the EU. A huge amount is already being done outside the EU and, when it comes to things like music, DIT has committed to make about £3 million of grant support available to help music small and medium-sized enterprises to be able to export up to 2020.” Following this statement there have been indications that DCMS is willing to undertake work to facilitate working visas for performers wishing to travel throughout the EU.
Thousands of Equity members took part in lobbying action after the UK/EU Trade Deal was concluded at the end of 2020 and it became immediately clear that the needs of creative workers had not been met.
An open letter to the Government, signed by over 100 Equity members was published on the front page of The Guardian newspaper in February and was covered by every major UK news outlet including Channel 4 News and BBC Newsnight. In the absence of a clear plan from Government, we are proposing four measures to guarantee our sector’s survival.
• a bespoke Visa Waiver Agreement with the EU for the creative sector
• bilateral agreements with key individual EU Member States
• emergency funding to cover additional costs when undertaking work in Europe
• reducing the of new road haulage & cross-trade rules
To add your voice to these demands, you can use Equity’s template letter to write to your MP. Go to equity.eaction.org.uk/fixbrexitcrisis
RETURN TO BREXIT: SEAT AT THE TABLE