Fighting for members in all Brexit scenarios

The Westminster Parliament has now voted against a no deal option for leaving the EU. Lobbying to prevent this scenario has been a key priority for Equity. It would be a disaster for members – with potentially devastating effects on careers and incomes. As the vote is not binding on the Executive and no deal will be greatly influenced by what the EU is prepared to offer there is advice members might wish to consider at https://euexit.campaign.gov.uk, as well as guidance produced by Arts Council England, at buff.ly/2FHfg27

Since the referendum, Equity has been campaigning for regular dialogue with DCMS. We have also been lobbying UK ministers, civil servants and Parliamentarians, guided by key objectives, which were formally codified and agreed by our Council and Conference last year. The second objective is to ensure any creative industries funding from the EU should be at least matched and guaranteed by the UK government. Thirdly, a red line is seeking to secure free movement for workers - an essential right for our members. These are global industries, which have been built on the free movement of talent and equipment – from theatre sets to musical instruments - on co-production treaties etc. The government’s Immigration Bill and White Paper seeks to bring the free movement of EU citizens to the UK to an end. With the key exception of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and the UK, these proposals will impose on EU citizens the same immigration rules, with some concessions, that currently apply to non-EEA citizens.

Stephen Spence, Equity’s Deputy for the General Secretary and lead official on Brexit commented: “There is little appreciation from the UK Government of the reciprocity of this benefit to UK citizens, and of the impact of the loss of free movement rights on UK creative workers, some of the most mobile in our economy. This is an issue of considerable concern; three quarters of respondents to a members’ survey we conducted before Christmas had worked in the EU in the last 3 years, and this work accounted for approx. one third of their annual income. If free movement does come to an end, the union will be stepping up lobbying – on both the European and EU side - for a reciprocal multi-entry visa for creative workers as part of a future UK-EU trade deal.”

This will build on Equity’s work last year when joint statements were brokered with engagers, via the EC’s Sectoral Social Dialogue Committees in Live Performance and Audio Visual, to inject our red lines into the EU negotiating process. Fourthly, we have joined with the TUC and others to ensure that workers’ employment rights are safeguarded. And fifthly, we have vigorously opposed the imposition of a hard border on the island of Ireland that would threaten the future health of the entertainment industry on the island of Ireland. Equity organised a joint event with Irish Equity at the beginning of the year, to ensure the unique circumstances and shared concerns of members north and south of the border about Brexit are embedded in our advocacy and campaigning work.

The union has been keeping a close watch on alternative proposals as they are presented. The professional interests need to be safeguarded. If negotiations on a future trade deal do go ahead, Equity will be lobbying very hard over the next year to ensure it works in the interests of performers, stage management and creative team.