Globetrotter Live Limited – Written evidence (FTS0048)
Globetrotter Live Limited is a recently established company providing Production and Technical services for the Events, Entertainment and Music Industries. The company was formed in 2019 but as a continuation from my 15 years as a sole trader in the industry before deciding that the development of the company and the size of its projects would be better suited to a limited liability legal entity. Within the committee’s call for evidence, we would be classified as working within the creative industries. I am writing to the committee to offer background information to the work that I have carried out in the EU to take into consideration, as I am likely to now face considerable barriers to be able to work there which in turn will lead to a considerable downturn in the profitability of my company.
In non-industry-specific terms the work we carry out could be described as project management, the provision of specialist technical personnel (such as sound engineers, lighting designers, riggers, video technicians etc) and the source and supply of AV equipment, accommodation, catering, logistics/haulage, merchandise, music equipment and more, for hire, sales and installation. Our markets include music touring and festivals, corporate events and exhibitions and high end installation work in venues, hotels and cruise ships. In 2019 either myself or freelancers being subcontracted by Globetrotter Live Limited worked in around a dozen EU countries, along with the USA, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Mexico and the Caribbean. In the 2019/2020 trading year our turnover was around £150,000 with the biggest expenditure being freelance labour. The majority of that turnover was from work carried out in the EU. We also managed projects on behalf of other companies with a spend of around £500,000.
For the business, events and installation work, which is more profitable, the visa situation is more difficult due to the following reasons:
In 2020 my turnover was down by over 60% as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, however despite this I still spent well over 100 days working in France and 30 days in other EU countries. At various points 5 freelancers working for me have also spent between 30 and 90 days in France. With the agreement as it stands, there is no EU-wide provision at all for the creative service industries and France, as one of the more generous states, allows a third country national to work for only 90 days in a year. This difference is enough that had it come into effect a year earlier my business would not have survived the pandemic. As it stands I have a regular client, one of my biggest, who may be forced to look for an EU-based alternative supplier due to these additional restrictions. This would be a six-figure loss to my company annually.
Conclusion and Opinion
If the agreement had based its provision for the movement of people on the examples of Norway and Switzerland, which were often cited during the referendum debate as non-EU countries that are successful in the service sectors, then the creative industries would have been largely unaffected and could have been seen as a very public example of a successful post-Brexit British export. The sector could definitely be just as successful outside of the EU as it was when we were a member, providing the right trading conditions exist. The right trading conditions absolutely do not exist with the agreement in its current form.
Had the publicly-reported offer from the EU to allow an EU-wide 90/180 days access been written into the agreement and tweaked to allow crew as well as artists, although much worse than retaining free movement of people, would still have been considerably better than the agreement as it stands, as it would have allowed companies such as mine to carry out the same type of work as before albeit with a time limit. I cannot see how that proposal is incompatible with a political commitment to remove free movement of people, as it can only ever be used for temporary work and not to settle, claim welfare support or to look for long term employment. The other important point about that offer is that because the industry in the UK is disproportionately large compared to the rest of the EU, the offer was actually unequally weighted in the UK’s favour despite being proposed by the EU.
Personally, I believe that ending free movement of people is going to have such a devastating impact on the creative industries, as well as others, that in the long term free movement of people and single market membership should be additional public referenda separate to the EU membership referendum of 2016.
In the short term, to prevent huge job losses and the collapse of an industry that is already suffering from the economic effects of the pandemic, we absolutely must have an EU-wide agreement and not the complexity of individual EU countries setting different criteria. Returning to the EU’s 90/180 day agreement could offer a temporary solution that people could work around while better access was negotiated, and would at least allow UK based companies and freelancers to carry out some work in the EU.
The other solution which would be acceptable for the sort of work my company is involved in, would be the option of industry-specific EU wide visas or passports. If we could pay an annual or similar long-term fee to get a document that allowed temporary work across the whole of the EU in any country for any client, then we would be able to carry on trading as the extra cost and complexity would be consolidated into a single document, that we could take ownership of rather than becoming uncompetitive by expecting clients to take on the administrative and financial burden for us.
The final point I would like to make is that with the limited information given by the government prior to publishing the agreement, most of the industry was led to believe that the 90/180 day offer was likely to be the situation and as such had no time or warning to prepare for the extra regulations that are now causing huge barriers to our ability to work in the EU. I believe that as an industry we should also be supported by the Government with measures such as subsidised Carnets, Government-funded legal advice and travel insurance and compensation for work that is lost due to the terms in this agreement.