UK Edging Closer To Brexit Deal? Local Biz Holds Its Breath

The UK’s biggest and longest-running drama could be heading for its season finale. Reports emerged today that the UK could be edging closer to agreeing a Brexit deal with the European Union after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson made concessions regarding a customs border down the Irish Sea, which has been a key sticking point to date.

According to The Guardian, sources close to the EU and Downing Street said an agreement could be published as early as tomorrow if the UK government gives the final OK to terms being discussed ahead of the European Council summit beginning on Thursday (October 17).

Earlier today, it was widely reported that Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, had given Johnson a deadline of midnight UK time Tuesday to propose a deal which could be signed off at the upcoming summit.

If talks do proceed positively, the possibility remains that a Brexit deal could be agreed on by the EU this week, and an emergency sitting of the UK parliament on Saturday (October 19) could see the PM try to secure backing for the deal, paving the way for the UK to exit the EU ahead of the current deadline on October 31 and avoid crashing out in a ‘no deal’ scenario.

Also today, in a phone call with Johnson, French PM Emmanuel Macron raised the possibility of an extension to that deadline to allow talks to be finalized.

However, there are still numerous political hurdles to overcome — not least that disparate MPs will vote on Johnson’s proposed deal — so the path to achieving a Brexit deal remains complicated and uncertain.

If the deal is agreed by the EU and UK politicians, it would mark the first step in a Brexit process that has been rumbling on for years since the initial shock EU referendum result in June 2016. Since then, uncertainty around how, when, or even if the UK would leave the European Union has caused political upheaval, and was a factor in the resignation of former PM Theresa May. Economic disruption has seen the value of the pound drop significantly in that time.

The UK film and TV industries have largely decried the possibility of the country exiting the EU, particularly without a deal, but the fall in value of the pound has made production on these shores only more attractive for the U.S. studios, who have continued to ramp up their activities in Blighty: Disney have moved into Pinewood Studios in a long-term deal and Netflix has taken over Shepperton Studios.

However, Brexit has caused real concerns for UK companies over the possibility of losing EU funding, particularly for distribution, as well as the threat to freedom of movement for film and TV workers. The continued lack of clarity over whether a deal will be reached has also led to hesitancy for some looking to invest here. Earlier today, reports emerged that a $140m studio development in London was being put on hold with U.S. company Pacifica Ventures citing Brexit uncertainty as the reason it had been unable to progress with the project.

Vocal critics of Brexit supporters and the UK government include the actor Hugh Grant, who took aim at PM Boris Johnson in a recent Twitter tirade, saying that he would not allow Johnson’s government to “destroy the freedoms my grandfather fought two world wars to defend”.

Today’s developments mean that the potential for a no deal Brexit, which would’ve seen the UK crash out of the European Union on October 31, appear to be diminishing. A deal of some sort would be a more palatable option for industry here, even if many would still lament the country leaving the EU.

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