The end of the transition period and the agreement on the UK’s new relationship with the EU will significantly change the way UK businesses interact with the EU. This includes those working in the screen sectors. This page sets out how our working relationship will now change. The advice in this Q&A refers to the situation as it applies from 1 January 2021 when the Trade and Cooperation Agreement took effect.

The UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020 and entered a ‘transition period’ while it negotiated its future relationship with the European Union.  Both parties announced that they had agreed a deal on their new relationship on 24 December 2020, with its terms taking effect immediately after the transition period concluded on 31 December 2020. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement has many implications for the screen sectors. This Q&A will be updated over the coming days and weeks as further detail becomes clear, including around mobility, subsidy (State aid), data transfers and intellectual property.

If you have additional queries or concerns, please email brexitadvice@bfi.org.uk. UK Government also hosts a page setting out information for those working in the broader creative industries from January 2021. Find out more.

What are the new rules regarding short-term movement of people (mobility)?

The Withdrawal Agreement allowed freedom of movement to continue until the end of the transition period in December 2020.

Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, both the UK and the EU have agreed to provide visa-free travel for certain kinds of short-term visits in respect of their nationals in accordance with their domestic law.

The UK Government now treats EU citizens as non-visa nationals for the purposes of tourism and holidays, meaning they can come to the UK as visitors for 6 months without the need to obtain a visa. The EU now applies its existing rules on visa-free short-term visits to UK nationals travelling to and within the Schengen area. UK nationals do 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 for conducting a limited variety of business trips, including attending meetings, conferences and trade fairs. (These conditions of entry are subject to any additional restrictions put in place by a Member State as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic).

Each Member State also has its own list of activities it allows to take place visa-free. Anyone looking to travel to the EU on business should check the relevant Member States’ regulations for further details on the regime that applies in that country.

In general, 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. Find out more.

For stays of longer than 90 days’ duration in the Schengen area, UK nationals will require a residence permit or relevant visa issued by national authorities, under national or EU rules. Different rules apply to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania. If you visit these countries, visits to other EU countries will not count towards the 90-day total.

Those moving from the EU to the UK for temporary work (such as to join a film or HETV production) must now adhere to the tier 5 (creative and sporting) visa system which previously applied only to non-EEA nationals. This requires a job offer from a recognised sponsor.   The UK 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. Find out more.

You 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. Find out more.

The UK and Irish Governments committed to maintaining the Common Travel Area (CTA) from 1 January 2021. CTA arrangements mean full protection and maintenance of the status quo for all journeys for individuals between the UK and Ireland. Rights to work, study and access social security and public services have been preserved on a reciprocal basis for UK and Irish nationals in the other’s state.

The UK and Switzerland have signed a Services Mobility Agreement providing continuity for UK businesses, professionals and other service providers, including those in the creative industries, to continue working visa free in Switzerland for up to 90 days a year.

What are the new rules regarding long-term movement of people to the UK (immigration)?

The Withdrawal Agreement allowed for freedom of movement to continue until the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.

For long-term immigration to the UK, a points-based immigration system now applies to both EEA and non-EEA nationals:

  • 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 cap on places for this route has been removed.
  • A very small number of industry leaders can move to the UK through a Global Talent route where they can evidence exceptional contribution.

Applications for the new system are open.

How the new points-based system works

Find out practical information

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 who lived in the UK for five years or more by 31 December 2020 can apply for ‘settled status’, allowing them to stay here permanently. Anyone that had 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.

How to apply for the EU settlement scheme

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

And what about UK citizens currently living in the EU?

Under the Withdrawal Agreement, the EU 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. Find out more.

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

Does the UK’s exit affect UK and European tax incentives?

The UK’s Creative Sector Tax Reliefs are not affected by the UK’s exit from the EU – this includes those available for film, high-end television (HETV), animation television, children’s television and video games. Content qualifies for the applicable Creative Sector Tax Relief if it passes the UK’s relevant cultural test. Creative sector cultural tests continue to recognise EEA content and personnel.

Changes will be required if UK personnel are to qualify for incentives in some EU Member States, varying on a territory by territory basis. This is because UK personnel no longer have EEA status – and are thus not able to qualify for some other Member States’ cultural tests or qualify for tax relief under incentive schemes in some Member States. The BFI, the British Film Commission and the UK Government recognise that future work needs to be undertaken on this issue.

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

The BFI’s Screen Business report demonstrates the value of the UK’s screen sector tax reliefs.

What are the changes to subsidy (State aid) rules?

As a member of the European Union and during the transition period, the United Kingdom was part of the EU regime on restricting trade-distorting subsidies (“State aid”).  From 1 January 2021 the UK is no longer bound by the EU State aid regime, save for specific exceptions in Northern Ireland as noted below.

The Government has stated that the UK will follow World Trade Organisation (WTO) subsidy rules and other international commitments from 1 January 2021. The WTO Agreement on subsidies and countervailing measures will remain relevant in the UK.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and the EU states that the chapter on subsidy control “does not apply to subsidies related to the audio-visual sector.” Further details are awaited from Government on the implications of this.

The Government has said that business will have the chance to comment on the design of the UK’s own domestic regime of subsidy control in 2021.

The Government has also stated that “EU state aid rules will apply in certain cases where this is relevant to trade between Northern Ireland and the EU. However this does not mean that state aid rules will apply to Northern Ireland as they do today: it is limited in scope to the movement of goods and wholesale electricity markets, and concerns only measures that ‘affect trade’ between Northern Ireland and the EU.“

Can the UK still 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 remain in place after the UK’s exit from the EU. The Convention 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. The next step is for the UK to ratify the Treaty and it can then subsequently enter into force for UK producers. 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 the UK’s exit from the EU.

Does the new trade agreement with the EU cover “audiovisual services”?

Audiovisual services are excluded from the sections on Services and Investment and on Digital Trade in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. This is in line with all other EU trade deals.

This means that some of the rules for broadcasters and providers of video on-demand services who are based in the UK and targeting EU audiences have changed. Find out more.

These broadcasters and VoD services may need a new licence; Ofcom has issued detailed advice.

Do 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). 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 remains party to the ECTT. 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 was fully transposed into UK law and entered into force in the UK on 1 November 2020.

What is the impact on laws regarding intellectual property?

The UK remains party to the main international treaties on copyright and related rights. These rules help underpin copyright legislation in all signatory territories and did not depend on the UK’s membership of the EU. They continue to apply following the end of the transition period.

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has published guidance on the impact of the changes to copyright law which took effect from 1 January 2021. Find out more.

Most UK copyright works (such as books, films and music) will still be protected in the EU and the UK because of the UK’s participation in the international treaties on copyright. For the same reason, EU copyright works will continue to be protected in the UK. This applies to works made before and after 1 January 2021.

Copyright duration in the UK for works from the UKEEA, or other countries has not changed. EEA works are given the same copyright duration in the UK as UK works. For works from outside the EEA, copyright lasts for the term granted in the country-of-origin or the term granted to UK works, whichever is less.

The EU orphan works exception no longer applies to UK-based institutions and was repealed from UK law on 1 January 2021. UK institutions may face claims of copyright infringement if they make orphan works available online in the UK or EEA, including works they had placed online before 1 January 2021.

In addition to the above, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement contains a section on Intellectual Property. Further guidance is awaited on the implications of this.

The EU published a readiness notice on changes to the Copyright regime which 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.

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?

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement confirms that both parties will exempt the temporary movement of filming equipment from import duties and taxes.

The EU makes provision for such temporary import of goods via a number of methods, including via the use of ATA carnets. ATA carnets are used in around 70 countries and constitute a document which travels with the goods in question and is checked at relevant borders. Countries have their own rules about what goods you can bring in with an ATA Carnet, so productions should check rules with the issuer in the country they’re exporting to. There is a cost to acquiring an ATA carnet and productions should apply as far ahead of their trip as possible to allow for processing times.

More information on using carnets for temporary export of goods from the UK

Under the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol – which is part of the Withdrawal Agreement – the movement of goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, in both directions, will be subject to new sets of rules after the end of the transition period.

More information

The Government has stated that:

“You may be able to get an ATA carnet to avoid paying import duty if you’re importing goods to or from Northern Ireland temporarily. More guidance will be published about this as soon as possible.”

More information

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

Are there impacts for film/TV-related haulage?

Yes. Rules for UK goods vehicle operators travelling to, or through, the UK, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway will change from 1 January 2021.

The Community Licence will be phased out and replaced with a UK Licence for the Community. The new licence and certified copies will be issued automatically and must be carried when driving abroad. Operators will still need a  standard international operator licence.

There will be additional requirements for abnormal load trailers, which may be relevant for talent trailers and other film and TV-related vehicles. There could also be additional requirements around permits too, depending on the nature of your trip.

More on new rules for UK goods vehicle operators

What does the UK’s exit from the EU mean for participation in European programmes, including the Creative Europe programme?

Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK participated in the Creative Europe programme until its last round ended on 31 December 2020. All UK projects that have already secured funding will continue to receive funding as normal, even where their funded activity is is set to take place after December 2020. 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. The Creative Europe Media Desk UK will remain open until 31 March 2021.

While the UK’s direct access to funding  has ended, 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. 

UK Government confirmed that it will fund the delivery of a Global Screen Fund to support UK independent content in the international marketplace as part of the Spending Review in November 2020, with £7m funding confirmed in the first year. Further detail is to be announced. The BFI is working closely with Government to ensure this delivers the greatest possible benefit to industry. A process of industry consultation is currently being undertaken on how the fund can best support its global ambitions.

Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement the UK will participate in the EU’s Horizon Europe programme. Horizon Europe is the EU’s research and innovation framework programme (2021-2027) and includes a strand supporting “Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society”. Further guidance is awaited on the terms of the UK’s participation.

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

Definitely. The BFI is one of the founder members of EFAD, which brings together film agencies in 34 countries in Europe (EU1, Iceland, Montenegro, Norway, Republic of North Macedonia, Serbia and Switzerland and the United Kingdom). 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 influential role in helping to shape audiovisual policy.

Can the UK continue 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 holds the Presidency of the European Audiovisual Observatory throughout 2021.

More information on the EAO

What are the new rules for data transfers?

Transfers of personal data between the EU and the UK can continue. The European Commission has ruled that the UK currently offers an ‘essentially equivalent’ level of data protection to the EU, meaning no new restrictions must be imposed. The EU has reserved the right to amend this decision should UK data protection rules diverge too far from its own in future, and the decision will be formally reviewed at least every 4 years.

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