Brexit – Good News or Bad News for the Publishing Industry?
Brexit has been one of the talking points of this year’s London Book Fair. It was no surprise to find the Olympia Room heaving with seminar attendees, attending a seminar on the effects of brexit on publishing so far, and to come.
The panel included:
- Rosa Wilkinson – Director of Stakeholder Engagement for Trade Policy at the Department for International Trade
- Ian Hudson – CEO of DK, and previous CEO of Penguin Random House (English Language) and deputy CEO of Penguin Random House UK.
- Nick Hilman – Director at Higher Education Policy Institute
- Stephen Lotinga – The Publisher’s Association Chief Executive
The seminar was an hour long and full of a lot of interesting points.
Rosa Wilkinson was quick to reassure the audience that the government is preparing for the UK’s exit from the EU in two years’ time.
Her department are researching the different streams of trade and business within the UK, opening dialogues with industries – including the publishing industry – to learn what they need to get out of brexit after Article 50 is enacted.
The trade department feels ‘like the fat end of the funnel’. They are gathering as much information as possible to help the UK understand the benefits and opportunities they have from leaving the EU.
Her final lines of her opening thoughts were that she thinks brexit will be good for the publishing industry. But she can’t be sure. She will work hard to make it possible however.
Ian Hudson’s views were positive, yet wary. He doesn’t believe brexit has to be bad economically, and that we can use it for our advantage.
For example, using DK as his prime example, 75% of DK products are printed by the printers outside of the UK in Europe and the Far East. Brexit could offer the chance for UK printers to compete on international markets.
His main concerns focused more towards the staffing issues publishing companies may face; with Brexit causing so much uncertainty for EU citizens living in Britain, and British citizens living in the EU.
DK is a global publishing company:
- 63 different languages
- 1000 employees worldwide
- 500 in London, 81 members of the London staff do not own British passports
Diversity and international talent is crucial to DK, but also to Britain as Britain is multi-cultural country. Publishing companies need to be able to recruit worldwide to develop books for the global market.
He stated that it was ‘inhuman’ that Theresa May hasn’t yet guaranteed a right to remain to European staff within Britain. It not only affects the employees currently working in Britain but also the future recruitment of European citizens to Britain.
When the floor was opened for questions HarperCollins CEO Charlie Redmayne stated that Polish workers in the HarperCollins Scottish outposts were ‘going back home’ over the uncertainty of brexit, the effect of the falling pound on earnings and the lack of control and security over their own jobs.
Hudson believes that Government needs to be less populist about immigration and understand that the publishing industry needs people from abroad for language, culture and skills that aren’t necessarily nurtured or found easily within this country. Doing something about immigration when Brexit first happened was just ‘doing something’, he claimed.
He also discussed the topic of Copyright and Piracy laws. Previously these laws within which affect Britain were passed within the EU. But with brexit Britain has the chance to create their own laws for copyright and piracy laws. It is the chance for the government to create a robust framework, as he feels Britain have been the voice of reason within the EU about the laws.
Nick Hilman main focus was on the effects of Brexit on academic publishing and research within the UK.
He feels that the University’s within Britain did not play their hand very well. They did not listen to the communities within which their universities were situated or their students.
In one university more than a quarter of all students wanted UKIP campaigns to be banned from their university entirely. Another university believed so strongly that the community surrounding the campus was going to vote remain that they didn’t campaign, and all of the constituencies actually voted leave. For these mistakes the universities, research facilities and academic sector are now suffering the consequences.
The main concern within academia and research is the freedom of movement for students and staff. In recent studies it is thought that with Brexit the number of EU students attending British universities will fall by 57%, if they’re not entitled to tuition loans and have to pay full international fees. University and Academic staff are suffering the same uncertainty of DK staff members, with over 20,000 staff members from Europe concerned about their freedom of movement. Many are already choosing to leave already.
Hilman did strike a positive; with Brexit comes the opportunity for Britain to delve deeper into research, such as nanotechnology, space research and other science research, which was blocked by the EU previously. But funding promised to academia has yet to be given and there is uncertainty that such funding will be received after Article 50 is enacted.
Hilman’s main steps for the future:
- The government need to confirm the funding arrangement for EU students starting courses in 2018.
- Staff mobility at UK universities needs to be at the heart of the Brexit communications going forward
- The outward mobility of students, and publishers, from Britain going abroad should be encouraged. For British workers to bring back knowledge and understanding for labour markets going forward.
- There needs to be more support for academia
The panel was then open for follow up remarks.
Wilkinson stated that recruitment from international audiences would not be a problem. No one is going to be kicked out of the country. She encouraged the need to retain talent and to recruit talent to Britain. She also stated that Copyright laws were high on their list of important topics to discuss and clarify further, as well as the grants for funding for the smaller businesses and industries.
‘We are leaving the EU, not the planet,’ she said. Reminding everyone that Britain still holds a voice within the world’s industry.
At the end of the interesting and heated panel the chair, Stephen asked one question to the audience:
Is Brexit good news or bad news for publishing?
The vote of hands was unanimous: bad news.