Brexit update: where do things stand now a trade deal has been reached?

Early on in the Brexit process, Equity established five key priorities for our lobbying work:

• Vocal Opposition to a No Deal Brexit that would devastate members’ careers, incomes and ability to provide for loved ones
• Campaigning on Free Movement for workers
• Joining with the TUC and others to ensure that workers’ employment rights including hard fought for rights to rest and holiday pay and intellectual property rights are safeguarded.
• Fighting to ensure lost Creative Industries funding from the EU is matched and guaranteed by the UK government
• Opposing the imposition of a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Where do things stand now that a UK/EU trade deal has been reached?

Freedom of Movement
Despite assurances from the Government that work permit free travel for creatives would be a priority in the trade deal negotiations, creative workers were excluded from the list of occupations benefitting from such arrangements in the final trade deal when it was published in December.

Already 2500 people have taken part in the lobbying campaign Equity launched in response to this news. We are calling for the immediate inclusion of all creative workers in existing arrangements or the creation of a separate creative visa. Much of the coverage on this issue has been rightly focused on the impact on the music industry but it will affect so many other creative sectors and workers including actors working in commercials, touring and English speaking theatre, TV and film, dancers – commercial and ballet, choreographers, singers, opera performers, variety artists, theatre directors and designers, comedians, fashion models and many others .

There has been much controversy surrounding disputes between the UK and EU as to which side derailed the negotiation of a creative visa. We are calling for the blame game to end and for the UK to resume negotiations with the EU immediately – both parties have stated that they are in favour of a solution to this problem so we believe it should be a priority for action.

Workers’ Rights and Northern Ireland
The deal itself went some way towards addressing Equity’s concerns about the impact of No Deal and avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland. However, it remains to be seen how the Northern Ireland Protocol will affect the movement of creative goods and services and there are concerns that despite commitments in the deal to alignment, existing employment rights including those arising from the Working Time Directive could come under threat in a forthcoming UK Government Employment Bill.

Over the coming weeks and months Equity will be monitoring and responding to developments in Northern Ireland and with respect to workers’ rights. Equity will fight to preserve and improve our members’ rights to proper holiday entitlement and pay and we will campaign to prevent any disruption to the growth of Northern Ireland’s creative industries.

Funding
The UK has now left the Creative Europe programme which in the period 2014 to 2018 alone invested €90m in the UK’s arts and audio visual industries. We will now look to the UK Government to replace this lost funding – and our key demand, as articulated in Equity’s Performance for All campaign is for arts funding in the UK to rise from 0.3% to 0.5% of GDP as a minimum.

Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights
We are also concerned about the UK falling behind EU standards on intellectual property rights - the UK voted in support of the EU Copyright Directive in 2019 and the Directive includes a number of new important rights for creative workers to rebalance unfair contracts and would increase transparency on the use of artists' work. Sadly there is no commitment on the part of the UK to introduce these important rights, and no compulsion to transpose the Directive so we will be campaigning and lobbying during 2021 to push for UK legislation which can incorporate these new protections.

Case Studies and member concerns
A number of members have brought to Equity’s attention castings and job ads asking for EU passport holders only. We also understand that some agents are asking clients to inform them if they already have an EU passport or can apply for EU passports in order to help their work finding prospects. These examples are really helpful for illustrating the impact of the failure to achieve a creative visa and we ask that members continue to report these incidents with us directly – we can keep your details anonymous if need be. Please email any concerns or examples to lmcmullan@equity.org.uk

Guidance for members
Equity is in discussions with accountancy and immigration specialists with a view to providing a webinar for members and briefing material on a range of issues including social security and work permit applications – we will update members when this information is ready to launch.