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UK Culture Secretary claims Brexit is an 'Opportunity' for the Creative Industries

By Neil Bennett | July 11, 2016
Speaking at a visit to The Foundry, John Whittingdale MP (above) also supported the government's EBacc plans for GCSEs despite evidence that its causing fewer pupils to study fewer creative subjects.

"We know longer have to get an agreement with twenty-seven other countries in order to strike a trade arrangement," he said. "I was in China six weeks ago. They are wanting to invest hugely in the creative industries. The President [of China, Xi Jinping] has told them that this is one of the greatest growth areas, and they know this country is probably the leading country in the world, and so the opportunities for British business there are enormous."

Another UK advantage that Whittingdale claims that won't be affected by Brexit are the tax breaks and pool of talent that we have here. It's fitting and perhaps ironic that Whittingdale was speaking at The Foundry. The British-based VFX firms that use its software - such as Nuke, above - are dependent on those tax breaks to attract work from Hollywood studios. However, their creative staff from VFX artists to matte painters are drawn from around the world and will move to other territories if that's where the work is - with firms like MPC last year actively encouraging staff to move to its Canadian offices to fill roles there (Canada also has very good tax breaks for film companies).

Whittingdale also cites our language as being a success factor that won't change, claiming that "they say to me, 'Brad Pitt, it's much easier to persuade him to spend six months if he's going to be in London, or in southern England, or northern England, or Dublin - somewhere where he'd speak the language - than if you send him off to Eastern Europe for six months.'"

Turning to immigration, Whittingdale clearly wants a deal with the EU that doesn't include free movement of people - a central tenet of both the EU and the EEA. He says that by tightening immigration from mainland Europe, it'll be easier for creative firms to hire from outside of Europe.

"At the moment you have this strange system whereby anybody who is a national of another member state can come here without any control at all," he said, "and therefore because we're seeking to reduce the overall number, we have to impose stricter conditions on people coming from outside the EU. What I would like to see is a system whereby we apply the same eligibility test to everybody from wherever they come."

While the report covers higher and further education, it doesn't mention GCSEs - where there are concerns over the government's plans for the EBacc, a new way of grading the performance of secondary schools based on five 'core' subject areas at GCSE (which are usually taken as seven GCSE: two English, two Science, Maths, a language and either Geography or History). This has been decried by many in the creative industries, as it could 'downgrade' creative subjects like art and design and lead to them becoming a lower priority with fewer resources. The coming introduction of the EBacc has been blamed for there being over 46,000 fewer GCSEs taken in 2016 than in 2015, as schools focus more on the 'core' subjects and less on creative ones.


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