The status of EU VFX workers in a No Deal Brexit

Opinion  |  22 August 2018

UK Screen Alliance has confirmed in an extensive new survey of the VFX workforce, that one in three people working in VFX comes from Europe.

The UK’s VFX workforce: UK Citizens: 55.3%, EEA Citizens: 33.1%, Rest of the World: 11.6%

The data collected since July 2018 correlates with previous annual surveys and with our evidence presented to the Migration Advisory Committee in 2017 following their call for evidence of the impact of Brexit.

There are thought to be around 8,000 people working in VFX in the UK and the survey was able to capture the nationality from a sample of 3,500 employees from a range of large and small VFX houses.

The VFX industry now generates substantial value for the UK economy, with a large proportion of its revenue coming from inward investment, mostly from the USA. It has enjoyed substantial growth in recent years, which has greatly outpaced the overall UK economy.

The success of the UK’s VFX industry would be disrupted if it could no longer employ skilled workers from around the world and especially from Europe. In contrast to the latest national statistics from ONS, which show a fall in EU citizens moving to the UK, the VFX industry’s figures continue to show that in a tight labour market where the required skills are scarce, EU citizens make a valuable and necessary contribution to the workforce.

The EU Withdrawal Act that received Royal assent in June 2018, contains reciprocal arrangements for UK and EU citizens living and working abroad. This gives a transition period after the Brexit date of March 29th 2019 up until the end of 2020, during which time their will be no substantial change in the ability of EU citizens to live and work in the UK. It also sets out how EU citizens already in the UK and those arriving during the transition period, may achieve ‘settled’ status, allowing them to live and work permanently in the UK.

However, these reciprocal arrangements are contingent on getting a Brexit deal with the EU. In the event of a “No Deal Brexit”, the provisions of Withdrawal Bill relating to immigration would not become law, potentially creating a cliff edge on 29th March 2019 for EU workers in the UK. Their right to live and work in the UK would be uncertain.

We urgently need the UK government to give clarity on this and remove the uncertainty for businesses and employees from the EU. The government should make a unilateral and binding guarantee that the rights of EU citizens to live and work in the UK will be protected in line with the provisions of the Withdrawal Bill, even in the event that the UK leaves the European without a deal.

Today (23/08/2018) sees the publication by the government of the first batch of a number of “technical notices” setting out the contingency plans it is making in the event of a No Deal Brexit. Around 80 notices are expected over the coming weeks.

Dominic Raab, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU stated this week that EU nationals living in the UK would be entitled to stay, even without a deal in place. However, the government has given no details how this unilateral commitment would be enacted. Nor does it give any detail about the continued ability of UK businesses to recruit skilled workers from the EU after Brexit. The long-awaited Immigration Bill is expected in the autumn following the publication of the Migration Advisory Committees final report in September. However, the government must stop using EU citizens as a bargaining chip now and provide real clarity on the future arrangements affecting their status.

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