Cannes: British Film Officials Seek to Calm Brexit Jitters

Brexit protester
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British film officials sought to play down fears Friday over the U.K.’s impending exit from the European Union, though a question mark hovers over a co-production treaty between Britain and France.

Isabel Davis, head of international at the British Film Institute, told an audience at the Cannes Film Festival that Brexit would not impact government tax relief for films or the ability of U.K. projects to qualify as “European works” under E.U. regulations.

Similarly, Britain’s co-production treaties in the region mostly fall under a convention of the Council of Europe, a different, larger body than the E.U., and so should not be affected by Brexit.

“One exception, however, is the U.K.-France coproduction treaty,” said Brussels-based lawyer Sunniva Hansson. “There are a couple of provisions in the treaty that refer to E.U. law so those would need to be looked at and possibly tweaked.”

Davis said the need to amend the treaty does not mean the U.K. and France can’t work together. “The U.K. and France like each other and like co-producing together,” Davis said. “As France has over 50 treaties, it also seems in favor of having arrangements with countries outside the E.U.”

Tax credits in Britain should also be unaffected by Brexit, Hansson said.

Those incentives, along with the weakness of the pound, have fueled a production boom in Britain that sees no sign of abating.

Post-Brexit, U.K. films will still be classified as European unless an E.U.-U.K. trade war breaks out. “U.K. works will qualify as European as long as the U.K. is not deemed to have imposed any ‘discriminatory measures’ against EU works,” Hansson said. “As long as the U.K. doesn’t do that, U.K. works remain European works.”

Similarly, in terms of movement across borders of cast and crew, most co-production agreements include obligations to facilitate work permits, although these are still subject to local employment and immigration law.

“The U.K. is involved in many films where borders are crossed very frequently,” Davis said. “The U.K. industry has made the case to government that it’s absolutely necessary to the making of films that that happens, and we feel quite confident that, backed up by coproduction treaties, these gateways should be open.”

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