What does ‘Brexit’ mean for the UK film Industry?

Last Friday saw the United Kingdom vote to leave the European Union, in one of the country’s biggest political shake ups in recent history. But what does ‘Brexit’ really mean for what is one of the UK’s most profitable industries?

Britain has never been explicitly known as a country that produces blockbusters on a regular basis like America, although we can more than hold our own against the movie capital of the world that is Hollywood. In fact, between 2009 and 2013, the UK’s share of the global film market actually eclipsed the USA’s by 1% for a total share of 41.5% and this is largely due to the fact that we have such close ties with our European counterparts.

Unlike our cousins across the pond, our movies tend to be a subtler and more personal experience, which is why the UK has shared a fruitful and lasting relationship with our likeminded EU colleagues. But our mutual love of the intricacies of movies could be in jeopardy, given that every aspect of business now done with Europe will change forever as a result of the referendum.

It’s worth nothing that neither the remain or leave camp have a clear idea of what a post EU Britain looks like, but here are some key points in regards to what’s to expect for the UK film industry after our departure from the EU.


One thing that’s certain to happen though, is the loss of funding from the European Union. Between 2007-2013, the MEDIA programme as part of the Creative Europe scheme provided over €100million to various aspects of the UK film industry from funding productions to distribution and festivals. UK based businesses received over €20million to support European film releases and almost €45million was spent to bring UK films to European cinemas.

Without this funding from creative Europe, and the weakening of the pound as a result of Brexit, it’ll become far more expensive to distribute UK films across Europe, and simultaneously, European films may start disappearing from our cinemas. Many of our critically acclaimed films such as Carol, The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire have all received funding from the EU and we are now certain to lose out on what has helped get these films made, and ultimately, increased our culture of producing award winning films.

Co-productions just became harder to pull off

The fall in Sterling aside, the difficulties facing collaborations between the UK and European film businesses is now going to have to undergo the tiresome and time consuming nature of establishing individual co-production deals with each country involved. Before this, European convention rules had a very straight forward way of dealing with these kind of multi-national European film treaties.

Quotas for European content

Broadcasters and exhibitors across Europe often have quotas for the amount of European content they show. Shows such as the recent hit mini-series The Night Manager, a collaboration between the UK’s BBC and the USA’s AMC, is considered a European production, and therefore meets the quota given by EU countries. In the future, it may not. This could mean that fewer European TV networks acquire the rights to distribution, and in turn, drive down the prices paid for them and their overall worth.

Work permits and visas

This doesn’t just apply to the film industry, it is something that many European businesses have raised as an issue, but nevertheless, will still put an inconvenience on British based workers looking to work in Europe and vice versa. Similarly, the movement of “goods”, in this case, production equipment such as lighting rigs and cameras, etc. may need special customs permits and or receive extra taxable charges.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. A separation from the EU would mean that our government is no longer bound by rules which govern how incentives and subsidies are applied to the TV and Film industry. Also, those from outside the UK looking to shoot in the country, might have just discovered that their budget will stretch a little further, as the value of the pound falls. And finally, one of the biggest plus points, but one that’s almost entirely speculation, is that the government will be able to use the money it’ll save from paying into the EU and replace the support lost by MEDIA and EU funding, and maybe even increase it. However, given that Leave campaigners have already gone back on their statement about funding the NHS with money they’ll save, it remains unclear on what the government will actually chose to spend it on in the future.

Regardless of your position on whether you wanted stay in or leave the European Union, one thing that’s for certain is that no one has any idea of what post EU Britain will look like.

By James Pitcher

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