The draft UK-EU Free Trade Agreement is better than No Deal and will, hopefully, provide a baseline for future trade and cooperation, rather than a jumping off point for significant divergence in commercial and regulatory standards.
However, much of the detail about how the Agreement will work in practice is lacking. Leaving aside likely supply of goods and customs declarations difficulties expected in the early months, other early indications suggest that Brexit will mean new barriers and bureaucracy for many SoA members and other creative freelancers seeking to visit and/or work on the Continent. This comes at a time when so many workers in our £112 billion-strong creative industries sector need support through – and out of – the health crisis. We cannot be complacent about the effects of Brexit in the months and years ahead.
The end to Freedom of Movement means that many of our members will have to negotiate complicated visa and work permit regimes before travelling to EU27 countries, and be aware of the extent of any potentially varying exclusions that may apply to them.
For instance, an author or journalist travelling to an EU member state for research purposes will first need to check requirements with the UK consular office or embassy for that state before travelling:
- To work in France for up to 90 days, they will not require a visa but will require a work permit
- In Italy, any exemptions for UK citizens are dependent on reciprocal exemptions for Italian citizens working in the UK; and
- In Germany, they will be subject all ‘all German immigration rules for third-country nationals’.
However, if that same author or journalist were travelling to a an event meeting about the book trade or journalistic profession, current exemptions are likely to mean that they will not require work permits and, in many cases, will not require a separate visa.
There is, of course, a lot of uncertainty around all this, but what is clear is that it will present a costly and complex barrier to thousands of freelancers working in the creative industries – from journalists and academics to performers, musicians and more. A petition calling for a Visa-free work permit for touring creative professionals has, at the time of publication, garnered over 200,000 signatures, which gives some of indication of the potential impact and strength of feeling about it.
Preservation of strong Intellectual Property and Copyright standards remains a further concern for SoA members and other freelancers. We are cautiously optimistic that the Agreement maintains commitments from both the UK and EU to World Intellectual Property Organization Treaties and TRIPS Agreement standards (more on this here) but we are still concerned about the UK Government’s lack of support for the EU Copyright Directive. The UK Government supported and shaped the Directive as an EU member. We will be pushing for the Government to meet or beat these standards as part of its domestic Levelling Up agenda.
With a document of this length and complexity, we would expect there to be a sustained period of reflection by the Government to work out how each of its composite parts will work in practice. We want to have confidence in that process and, to this end, we are renewing our call – alongside ALCS and others – for the creation of a UK Creators Council to enable collecting societies, trade unions and other member organisations to directly input into the policymaking that affects the creative industries.
This is perhaps all the more necessary given that the Agreement contains substantial copy and pasted sections on protocols for using long-defunct 1990s software and encryption applications. This is concerning. Beyond the 10 minutes of hilarity this triggered on social media, it does beg the serious question of how much of the legal text was drafted with input from experts with a deep and practical understanding of the issues at stake.