The strength of Britain’s global appeal is reflected in our thriving creative sector at home. The numbers are impressive: one in 11 jobs in the UK falls within the creative economy, supporting a contribution to the economy of £84.1bn, according to figures from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The UK exported £17.9bn of creative services in 2013, including TV content worth £1.28bn (the world’s second largest TV export contribution). We also have the second largest design sector globally, with exports worth £204m in 2013. The sector is predicted to only grow in the coming years too – the UK has the fastest growing digital economy in the G20.
But, with the UK’s place in Europe under threat, that upward trajectory could be in jeopardy. The UK faces a choice between backing its creative sector, giving Brand Britain the boost it needs to carry on dominating the global market, and turning inward and stopping the cultural mill turning. So it is vital that those who value our cultural prowess make the case now for the UK staying in Europe.
There are several reasons why. First, for businesses exporting UK culture, the EU is a vital market. With the digital single market on the horizon, being inside Europe will mean we start to reduce trade barriers in this vital sector. For an industry with such massive export potential, but which faces huge global competition, that is crucial. For smaller creative firms, which tend to expand internationally earlier in their development, that access will be a big asset.
Europe is the UK’s second largest market for music exports, supporting around 100,000 jobs in the UK. Britain has an opportunity to build on that strength: independent estimates by CEBR have put the value of the digital single market to the UK in the region of £3.1bn by 2020.
As a result, the Confederation of British Industry has called on the government to make clear its ambition and set a target for Britain to be a leading exporter across all areas of creative content by 2025. Taking a leap into the dark and turning our back on the prospect of the digital single market would put that level of ambition for our creative sector completely out of reach.
Second, as Europe’s media hub, the UK benefits from massive foreign direct investment in its creative industries from EU countries. One pound in 10 invested in the UK from Europe goes to businesses large and small in the creative industries, funding 369 projects and supporting nearly 21,000 jobs in 2014 alone. That amount is on the up: the UK’s share of the global market for foreign direct investment in creative industries is projected to increase from 10% in 2013 to 15% in 2020.
Third, for many creative people, free movement provides an opportunity to travel, work and study across the continent. It is also a chance to promote British cultural exports in Europe, where they are in huge demand. Young musicians can hop on a cheap flight or ferry in the morning and play a gig in Europe by the evening. Why would we change an arrangement that facilitates cultural exchanges and transfers of talent?
Finally, the EU itself is a source of significant financial grants for the firms that drive Brand Britain. The UK disproportionately benefits from EU cultural funding, with a grant application success rate almost double the average across Europe: 1,200 projects in the UK were supported over just six years with funds in excess of €400m (£314m).
What is more, the EU’s flagship Creative Europe programme will guarantee loans to the tune of €1.46bn (£1.14bn) until 2020; expecting to benefit more than 300,000 cultural professionals and, through the distribution of more than 1,000 films and 5,500 books, reach more than 100 million people across Europe.
Put simply, to turn our back on Europe now would be to betray the ambition that Brand Britain and the UK creative industries deserve. UK cultural exports are the best in the world and they are made stronger and more valuable for our place in Europe. As well as making Britain great abroad, it supports jobs and businesses at home. Until those who campaign for the UK to leave the EU can explain how all the benefits of being ‘in’ can be replicated by being ‘out’, the conclusion is clear: Britain’s cultural and creative sector is stronger in Europe.