Brexit and the end of the transition period will significantly change the way UK businesses interact with the EU, including those working in the screen sectors. This page sets out how our working relationship may be expected to change.

The UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020 and entered a ‘transition period’ while it negotiates its future relationship with the European Union. This transition period will conclude on 31 December 2020. While many aspects of the UK’s relationship with the EU continue as before during this transition period, the way in which many aspects of policy will work in the long-term depend on the outcome of these negotiations.

The BFI is updating this page as further detail emerges. We continue to work very closely with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and across Government as well as with industry and European partners. Our aim is to help secure the best possible outcome for the screen industries, enabling us to sustain the closest possible working relationship with Europe in the future.

If you have additional queries or concerns, please email brexitadvice@bfi.org.uk.

What does Brexit mean for the Creative Europe programme?

Following the publication of the Government’s EU negotiating mandate on 27 February 2020, it became clear that the UK will not be seeking to participate in the next Creative Europe MEDIA programme which will start in January 2021.

Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK will continue to participate in the current Creative Europe programme until it ends in December 2020. All UK projects that have already secured funding will continue to receive funding as normal, even where their funded activity is set to take place after December 2020. However, all deadlines for MEDIA sub-programme schemes for which UK companies were eligible have now passed and any future funding deadlines will fall under the new programme, for which the UK is not directly eligible.

UK films, however, are still eligible for awards made to European distributors and sales agents under the calls published as part of the current programme.

While the UK’s direct access to funding comes to an end this year, there are many international training courses and industry initiatives funded by the programme that will remain open to UK participants under the new programme from 2021 to 2027.

The Government is currently investigating what a domestic alternative to the Creative Europe programme could look like.

What will happen regarding movement of people?

The Withdrawal Agreement allows for freedom of movement to continue until the end of the transition period in December 2020. UK and EEA nationals are able to travel as usual between the UK and the EEA up until this time.

New rules for providing services and travelling for business to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein apply from 1 January 2021. The Government has published a country by country guide here. As part of the trade negotiations with the EU, the Government are seeking a reciprocal agreement that could allow UK citizens to undertake some business activities in the EU without a work permit, on a short-term basis. The Government has said it is unable to comment on the detail of these arrangements as discussions are ongoing.

The Government has stated that it will treat EU citizens as non-visa nationals for the purposes of tourism and holidays after the end of the transition period, meaning they can come to the UK as visitors for 6 months without the need to obtain a visa. The EU has already legislated such that it will apply its existing rules on visa-free short-term visits to UK nationals travelling to and within the Schengen area after the end of the transition period. UK nationals will not need a visa when travelling to and within the Schengen area for short stays of up to 90 days in a rolling 180-day period, when travelling for purposes such as tourism, to visit friends or family or indeed to attend cultural or sports events or exchanges.

You will need to have at least 6 months left on an adult or child passport to travel to most countries in Europe (not including Ireland) for all forms of travel including business travel.

The Government has set out plans for a points-based immigration system to be introduced from January 2021 after freedom of movement ends. This will be applicable to both EEA and non-EEA nationals. More detailed is required, but policy statements as of July 2020 have confirmed that:

  • Those moving to the UK for permanent employment, such as many vfx roles, must have a job offer in a high-skilled profession and must be able to speak English. They must then reach a ‘points’ threshold via a combination of salary level (which must always be above £20,480), level of qualification and whether they are working in an occupation with recognised skills shortages.
  • Employers in the screen sectors will be required to pay an immigration skills charge as well as an NHS surcharge to bring these workers in. The current cap on places for this route will be removed.
  • Those moving to the UK for temporary work (such as to join a film or HETV production) must adhere to the tier 5 (creative and sporting) visa system currently in place for non-EEA nationals. This requires a job offer from a recognised sponsor. However, if the UK treats EEA citizens as ‘non-visa nationals’ as expected (see below), they will be able to travel to the UK to work for up to three months without a visa if other documentation is provided. The UK also allows those coming to the UK to shoot on location for an overseas production to enter without a visa for limited periods of time. More information on the current structure of tier 5 visas is available here.
  • A very small number of industry leaders will be able to move to the UK through a Global Talent route where they can evidence exceptional contribution.

The Government has announced plans to open application systems in 2020 so that people can begin applying ahead of the change of system. Further information on how the new points-based system will work can be found here and practical information is available here.

The BFI continues to work with industry and others to advocate for the importance of ease of movement for the screen sectors on both a short-term and long-term basis given their highly international nature. The Home Office previously collaborated with industry to design the tier 5 system to ensure it works for industry, and BFI and partners stand ready to work with Government to ensure these provisions remain fit for purpose in future.

What will happen to EU citizens living in the UK?

The Withdrawal Agreement guarantees the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK by the end of the transition period. EU citizens that have lived in the UK for five years or more are able to apply for ‘settled status’, allowing them to stay here permanently. Anyone that has not been in the UK for the requisite five years may apply for pre-settled status, allowing them to remain in the UK until they have reached the five years required to apply for settled status. The deadline for applications for either settled or pre-settled status is 30 June 2021.

Further detail on how to apply for the EU settlement scheme is available here.

Government has set up a settlement scheme helpline for businesses at 0300 123 7379.

And what about UK citizens currently living in the EU?

The EU has agreed to safeguard the rights of UK citizens arriving in the EU by the end of the transition period. The process on exercising these rights varies territory by territory. More information here.

Government has also set up a helpline for businesses on EU citizens’ regulation at 0300 123 2253.

Will Brexit affect UK and European tax incentives?

The UK’s Creative Sector Tax Reliefs will not be affected by Brexit – this includes those available for film, high-end television (HETV), animation television, children’s television and video games. In the BFI’s Screen Business report (below), the previous Chancellor restated Government’s commitment “to supporting [the UK’s] highly-skilled and innovative creative industries through creative sector tax reliefs”. Content will still qualify for the applicable Creative Sector Tax Relief if it passes the UK’s relevant cultural test. Creative sector cultural tests will also continue to recognise EEA content and personnel. Changes will be required if the UK is to continue to qualify for incentives in some EU Member States after the end of the transition period and this varies on a territory by territory basis. Once the future trade relationship with the EU is decided the Government, in conjunction with the BFI, will  work to ensure that wherever possible content and personnel can still qualify.

Under the Withdrawal Agreement, UK personnel have EEA status – and thus will be able to qualify for other Member States’ cultural tests – until the end of the transition period.

The BFI continues to be able to issue European Certificates of Nationality.

Are any changes expected to subsidy (state aid) rules?

As a member of the European Union, the United Kingdom was part of the EU regime on restricting trade-distorting subsidies (“state aid”). The EU’s state aid regime helps regulate how public authorities provide advantages to organisations that could potentially distort competition. This is designed to ensure a level playing field for businesses operating across the EU and influences their level of competitiveness relative to international counterparts too. Advantages can be considered to be anything which an organisation could not get on the open market, such as grants, loans and tax incentives. It is an important consideration for the screen sectors, as state aid rules govern how public authorities might choose to support culture.

EU state aid rules continue to apply to the UK till the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. After that, the Government has stated that the UK will follow World Trade Organisation (WTO) subsidy rules and other international commitments, replacing the EU state aid laws, from 1 January 2021.

Clear guidance on WTO rules will be published before the end of the year for public authorities and devolved administrations. Business will have the chance to comment on the design of the UK’s own domestic regime of subsidy control next year. But both EU state aid rules and the WTO Agreement on subsidies and countervailing measures will remain relevant in the UK. The extent of this effect will depend upon the result of the UK-EU future relationship negotiations.

The Government has also stated that “the Northern Ireland Protocol sets out that EU state aid rules will apply in certain cases where this is relevant to trade between Northern Ireland and the EU… State aid provisions apply only to trade ‘subject to the Protocol’. The Protocol is limited in scope to the movement of goods and wholesale electricity markets.”

Will the UK still be able to co-produce with EU partners?

All co-production agreements including the bi-lateral co-production treaties and the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production signed by the UK will remain in place after Brexit. The European Convention on Cinematographic Co-Production is governed by the Council of Europe, not the European Union, and the UK will continue to be a party to the Convention. In addition, on 7 February 2019 the UK Government officially signed the revised Convention. It confers added flexibility on UK producers and their international partners whose countries are signatories. This demonstrates the UK’s determination to continue working very closely with Europe and other international territories.

The UK’s bi-lateral treaties with Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, India, Israel, Jamaica, Morocco, New Zealand, Occupied Palestinian Territories and South Africa form part of UK legislation and therefore are not affected by Brexit.

Will a new trade agreement with the EU cover the screen sectors?

The UK’s negotiating mandate for ongoing talks on the future relationship published in February 2020 set out a potential framework for the future relationship between the EU and the UK. It states that audio-visual services may form a part of a future agreement, but that this is subject to negotiation.

If audiovisual services are excluded – as they have been in previous EU trade agreements – this will primarily affect broadcasters based in the UK which are broadcasting to EU Member States, since there will be no possibility of retaining the country of origin principle as provided for by the EU’s Audiovisual Services Media Directive (AVMSD). In this scenario, UK-based broadcasters may need a new licence; Ofcom has issued detailed advice.

Will UK films and TV programmes still count as “European works”?

Works originating from the UK will still be considered European works for the quotas set out in the European Union Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) even after the end of the transition period. This has been confirmed by both the UK Government and the European Commission. This is because the AVMSD rules concerning the definition of European works state that a work can qualify if the work originates in a European third State party to the European Convention on Transfrontier Television (ECTT) of the Council of Europe. The UK is party to the ECTT and will continue to be a party to it once the UK leaves the EU. A note with further information can be found below.

The DCMS has consulted on the implementation in the UK of the revised AVMSD which was agreed by the EU in 2018. It includes a 30% minimum quota for European works on VoD services. This Directive is being fully transposed into UK law and will enter into force in the UK on 1 November 2020.

Will Brexit affect laws on intellectual property?

Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK remains subject to the same rules and regulations on intellectual property during the transition period, with future alignment subject to negotiation as part of the future relationship. This means IP laws continue to function throughout this period.

The UK and other EU Member States are party to the main international treaties on copyright and related rights. These rules help underpin copyright legislation in all Member States of the EU and do not depend on the UK’s membership of the EU. The UK negotiating mandate for ongoing talks on the future relationship sets out that any agreement should build upon these agreements as part of any future trade agreement.

There is also a body of EU law on copyright and related rights that goes beyond the provisions of the international treaties, including several cross-border copyright mechanisms. These mechanisms are unique to the EU and provide reciprocal protections and benefits between EU Member States. The EU has published a readiness notice on changes to the Copyright regime which will affect the EU and the UK after the end of the transition period and a separate readiness notice on the implications for the Exhaustion of Intellectual Property rights.

The most recent addition to this body of EU law is the Copyright Directive which entered into force on 7 June 2019. However, UK Government has stated that it does not intend to implement this Directive.

Government has set up a helpline for businesses on intellectual property at 0300 300 2000.

What about the temporary movement of goods, such as filming equipment?

Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, movement of goods continues as normal throughout the transition period. Beyond this, the terms of movement will be subject to negotiation with the EU. The Political Declaration on the future relationship between the UK and the EU recognised the importance of temporary movement of objects and equipment for ongoing cultural cooperation. It set out plans to develop the smoothest possible arrangement for the movement of goods between the two, while recognising the importance of checks after the UK leaves the single market.

The Government has written to VAT-registered businesses in Great Britain trading with the EU and/or the rest of the world.

The letter explains what businesses need to do to prepare for new processes for moving goods between Great Britain and the EU from 1 January 2021.

Under the Northern Ireland Protocol – which is part of the Withdrawal Agreement – the movement of goods between into Northern Ireland from Great Britain will be subject to new rules after the end of the transition period. The precise details of these arrangements are subject to discussions within the UK/EU Joint Committee and are due to be published before the end of transition period. More detailed background is available here. The Government has stated that its “unfettered access policy will ensure that businesses and individuals will be able to move goods from Northern Ireland into the rest of the United Kingdom on the same basis as now.”

Government has set up a helpline for businesses regarding goods crossing the UK/EU border at 0300 3301 331.

Should the UK be considering rejoining Eurimages?

The BFI committed to look at rejoining Eurimages as part of its BFI2022 strategy. This review was also a key recommendation of the BFI’s Independent Film Commission. The BFI has since met the Eurimages team to discuss the programme further.

Eurimages has undertaken an external evaluation to inform a review of the goals, programme implementation, governance and decision-making processes of the organisation. The outcome of the review is available to read here. On 9 September 2020, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe approved the reform of Eurimages, proposed in light of the conclusions of the external evaluation. The detailed implementation of the reforms is to be finalised in 2021.

With the programme subject to changes yet to be implemented, the BFI believes the UK should wait until this implementation is completed before investigating membership further as part of a wider consideration of how essential support is provided to the screen sectors following the end of UK participation in the Creative Europe programme.

Will the UK continue to be represented as part of the European Film Agency Directors (EFAD) forum?

Definitely. The BFI is one of the founder members of EFAD, which brings together the directors of film agencies in 35 countries in Europe (EU1, Iceland, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Switzerland). EFAD members are responsible for national funding for the audiovisual sector and for advising their Government on all aspects of audiovisual policy. In total, EFAD members and their governments fund around three billion euros every year through subsidies and tax reliefs to help foster the creation, production, promotion, distribution and exhibition of European audiovisual works including film. As such, EFAD has an extremely strong voice in helping to shape European audiovisual policy.

Will the UK continue to be able to access the wealth of facts and statistics produced by the European Audio-Visual Observatory?

Absolutely. Like the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-production, the European Audiovisual Observatory (EAO) is governed by the Council of Europe, not the European Union, and the UK will remain a member of the Council of Europe. The UK will hold the Presidency of the European Audiovisual Observatory in 2021.

More information on the EAO can be found here.

What does Brexit mean for data transfers?

Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, data transfers will continue as normal during the transition period, with further arrangements to ensure that data transfers remain possible in the future comprising one element of negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship.

Government has set up a helpline for businesses on data transfers at 0303 123 1113.

This Q&A contains general information. Any legal information is not advice and should not be treated as such. Any legal information in this Q&A is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied, in particular we do not warrant that any information is true, accurate, complete, current or non-misleading. No lawyer client relationship shall be created through the use of this Q&A. You must not rely on any information contained in this Q&A. If you have any questions about any legal or finance matter contained in this Q&A, you should consult your own lawyer or finance professional. Nothing in this disclaimer excludes or limits liability for death or personal injury, for fraud or fraudulent misrepresentation or in any way not permitted under applicable law.

1 Includes two separate members in Belgium