Making a Brexit

As the dust settles after the EU Referendum, Access looks at what the future might hold for the industry.

On the morning of 24 June, event professionals awoke to discover that the UK had voted to leave the European Union. The UK’s involvement is coming to to an end and the industry has been left wondering, what comes next?

On the day the result was announced, Access caught up with influential figures from around the industry to gauge their reaction to the news. For many, the closeness of the result (the Leave vote had just a 52 per cent majority) created a polarised country.

Chris Skeith, CEO of the AEO, tells Access: “Brexit has demonstrated quite a divided Britain with a result that has shocked many. What’s really important now – regardless of the outcome – is that we as an industry need to pull together.”

The events industry appeared to be largely against Brexit in the weeks leading up to the referendum. A Twitter poll carried out by sister magazine Exhibition News after the result found that 75 per cent of respondents thought leaving the EU would have a negative effect on the events industry.

The Leave campaign did, however, have its champions among events professionals.

Nick de Bois MP, chairman of the UK Events Industry Board, says of the result: “This momentous decision sets the course for the UK to excel in global markets, free of the heavy bureaucratic and undemocratic institutions of the EU. There will, of course, be a period of adjustment, but the bottom line is that the future is in our own hands and that presents the UK with a massive opportunity.”

“Clearly, this was not a decision that anyone took lightly,” adds Eventbrite general manager, UK and Ireland, Joel Crouch. “In London alone, we spotted close to 100 events on our platform where the EU referendum was being discussed in the run up to the vote.” One possible result of the vote, highlighted by several event professionals, is that the drop in the value of the pound due to the referendum may trigger a new tourism boom in the UK. “The weakening of the pound makes

Britain more competitive,” explains Michael Hirst OBE, chair of the BVEP. “We have a greater flexibility to win more global events, especially now that we have a new industry board in place and much more willingness on the part of the government to support events.”

For Steve Heap, general secretary of the AFO, government support will have to be up to the standards of the EU’s contribution to the UK events industry. “Economically I have been employed by several events funded from European cash, regional development funds, direct and indirect grants from Europe.

“There is very little confidence that our industry will be guided, encouraged or supported for the foreseeable future. Where will events, festivals and tourism get their financial support?”

While the UK’s exit from the EU may be some time off, the practicalities of Brexit are still largely unclear, and the events industry has been left with more questions than answers.

“Will it now become more complicated to work across borders? What will the impact be on touring musicians, especially emerging artists in terms of visas and other issues?” asks Paul Reed, general manager of the AIF.

“As Croatian festival organisers we are concerned at how this situation will affect our many UK visitors. It could have various implications on visas, airplane tickets and more,” adds Adnan Mehmedović, co-founder of Fresh Island Festival.

The overwhelming feeling amongst event professionals, whether they voted leave or remain, is that the industry must continue to work closely to build communities, and heal the divisions created by Brexit.

As Truck Festival put it in a statement to Access: “We will all have to rebuild bonds in our communities.”