CIF’s Global Talent report offers insight into how Brexit will hit the creative industries

A new report from the Creative Industries Federation examines the role that international talent plays in the UK’s creative sector and offers recommendations on how government can enable EU and non-EU creatives to continue to produce great work in the UK, post-Brexit

According to the Creative Industries Federation, the issue of attracting and retaining international talent remains vital to the UK’s global success, yet the current situation is compounded by the worries over freedom of movement, in light of the government’s position on Brexit.

In their foreword to the report, the CIF’s John Kampfner and Rick Haythornwaite write that the government “must now deliver an immigration system that can support its commitment – a system commensurate with its vision of an open, global Britain”.

A radical reimagining of the immigration system is called for, they add: “Plans to end freedom of movement following Brexit imperil the creative industries and threaten further growth.”

The report comes a day after the Advertising Association launched its own campaign focusing on the potential effect that a hard Brexit might have on the communications industry. Its ‘Great Advert for Britain‘ campaign features a short film of ad industry figures of various nationalities extolling London as a hub for global advertising.

The AA’s accompanying report, Advertising Pays: World Class Talent, World Class Advertising advocates the benefits of “a diverse international workforce as central to the UK’s position as a global advertising and marketing hub”.

With similar issues in mind the Global Talent Report “sets out recommendations on how future immigration systems for both EU and non-EU workers can best support the creative industries…. Our global reputation has made us a magnet for world-class talent who, in turn, have helped build our international renown. It would be reckless to lose this hard-won success.”

The CIF is unequivocal that the UK government simply isn’t doing enough to reassure the creative industries that the rights of its EU and non-EU workers will be not be undermined – nor that the post-Brexit landscape will bring potential upheaval that could cost the sector dearly.

A brief summary of the report’s findings and recommendations is below, while the full report – Global Talent: ‘Why the UK’s world-leading creative industries need international workers and how to attract them’, written by the CIF’s Jack Powell, is available to read at

In summary

– The creative industries are worth £87bn to the UK economy and employ more than three million people (DCMS Sectors Economic Estimates, cited in the report) – one in eleven jobs are in the creative economy.

– The creative industries are also “the fastest growing part of the UK economy and return more than the automotive, oil and gas, aerospace and life sciences industries combined” (PwC analysis, cited in the report).

– The Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s statistics on the creative industries do not give an accurate picture of the numbers of EU nationals working in it, say the CIF. This is because the data “fails to capture the massive variation across sub-sectors: 25% of architects are non-UK EU citizens, as were 30% of people working in visual effects (VFX) in 2016. A workforce survey conducted by the Federation found that 75% of 250 business respondents employed EU nationals. Two thirds said they could not fill those jobs with British workers. The statistics also fail to demonstrate the value of international workers to the sector”.

– If in use going forward the current visa system “would strangle access to vital international talent and impose huge administrative and financial burdens on creative businesses”. This, says the CIF, “is unworkable at a time when 57% of creative businesses surveyed by the Federation report that they are already facing skills shortages”.

– The CIF propose “a twin-track approach” as there are “practical reasons – including geographical proximity, comparatively cheap travel and the EU’s position as the principal market for the UK’s creative exports – why the EU is likely to remain an important creative, business and trading partner”.

– Reassurance for the sector is also long over-due: “Government should confirm as soon as possible the terms by which EU nationals currently living in the UK have the right to remain here post-Brexit, with this right reciprocally extended to UK nationals currently living in the EU. Government must also secure reciprocal rights for UK workers to move and work freely for short-term projects, such as performances and shoots.”

– It remains “imperative that we improve our visa system for non-EU talent if freedom of movement is to end,” say the CFI. “Accessing talent elsewhere in the world will become even more important if we lose access to EU workers. The current system is highly restrictive and delivers mixed results for the sector.”


The CIF also has as series of recommendations on the EU system that specifically address the notion of freedom of movement.

“Any replacement system must allow the best possible access to EU talent and the skills our sector needs,” they write. A new system must “allow visa-free travel between the EU and the UK – securing this should be a priority in exit negotiations” and the government needs to “secure reciprocal rights for UK workers to move and work freely for short-term projects, such as performances and shoots”.

Further more, the CIF state that the new system should:

• Provide same-day access to talent.

• Establish a youth mobility scheme with the EU.

• Allow access to low-skilled workers.

• Provide a route for freelance talent.

• Mitigate any additional costs and administration.

• Allow employers to bring in EU workers without meeting the current non-EU minimum salary requirement.

On the non-EU system, the CIF state that the government should:

• Introduce a ‘creative freelancer’ visa.

• Scrap the immigration skills charge.

• Improve the UK’s ability to track the working needs of the sector.

• Allow multiple entry and greater periods of time between professional engagements on short-term visas.

• Allow ‘exceptional talent’ from all parts of the creative industries to use the tier 1 system.

• Maintain Britain’s reputation as an open and welcoming cultural hub.

• Provide UK workers with the skills needed to work in the creative industries.

Announcing the publication of the report, the CIF added that it is being launched on the same day that “senior representatives from Labour, the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats call on the Prime Minister to issue a clear and definitive statement on government’s position on global creative talent”.

“The Federation will continue to make the case for the sector at the highest levels of Government throughout Brexit negotiations and beyond,” they add. “We will also submit evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee’s consultation on the importance of EEA workers to the UK.”

Global Talent: ‘Why the UK’s world-leading creative industries need international workers and how to attract them’ is available to read at

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