How could the Brexit impact the UK games industry?

Next week, the UK will vote in the EU Referendum.

Whether we remain within the European Union or leave, the decision will have far-reaching consequences for our country’s future.

But how will the games industry be voting? According to a survey of its members carried out by UK games trade body UKIE in April, 80.6 per cent of UK games companies want to stay in the EU. Only 3.2 per cent backed the so-called ‘Brexit’, while the remaining 16.2 per cent were undecided about how they are going to vote.

UKIE has since carried out another survey. This new poll indicates strong support for remaining a member of the European Union.

66.1 per cent of respondents said that they felt ‘very positive’ about the future of the UK games industry should we remain in the UK (above), with another 25.4 per cent saying they were ‘fairly positive’. 3.4 per cent answered that leaving or remaining makes no difference towards the future of the UK games industry.

Conversely, only 18.7 per cent of the UK games industry felt positive about the UK games industry’s potential for growth should we leave the EU (below). In fact, 71.2 per cent of respondents said that they were ‘not very positive’ or ‘not at all positive’ about the UK games industry’s prospects in the next two years should a Brexit occur.

A question of talent

Many in the Remain camp argue that leaving the EU will hamper the UK’s ability to attract talent from Europe, and by extension, the rest of the world. Meanwhile, Leave’s argument is that a ‘points-based’ immigration system – similar to that seen in Australia – will mean a stronger hold on our borders and mean the UK can focus on bringing in higher-skilled workers.

Replies to UKIE’s poll suggest the UK games industry relies on overseas workers. When asked to respond to the statement: ‘There is currently enough home-grown high-skilled or specialist talent to meet my firm’s needs’ (below), only 6.8 per cent of UK firms strongly agreed, while 16.9 per cent said that they agreed.

However, the biggest proportion of respondents – 28.8 per cent – said they disagree, with a further 16.9 per cent strongly disagreeing.

In response to a separate question, 52.5 per cent of UK games firms strongly agree that free movement of workers within the EU is vital to fill positions requiring high levels of skill and experience, with another 25.4 per cent agreeing. Only 6.8 per cent of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Respondents were also asked how much they agreed with the following statement: ‘Leaving the EU will create new opportunities for high-skilled migration from across the world’. Only 11.9 per cent strongly agreed while no-one agreed. 28.8 disagreed with the statement, while 30.5 per cent strongly disagreed.

It appears clear that the free movement of workers within the EU is vital to the continued strength of the UK games industry, and that leaving the EU will have a grave impact on the UK skills market in games.

What if we do leave?

The data from UKIE’s survey points towards the UK games industry voting to remain in the European Union.

But if the UK does indeed vote to leave, the games industry is ill-prepared to deal with the consequences of this shift.

According to UKIE’s data, 41.1 per cent of UK games companies have not even had discussions to plan for the eventuality of a Brexit. A further 35.6 per cent companies have had internal discussions, but no decisions for action have been taken as of yet.

Meanwhile, 13.6 per cent of UK games firms have internal discussions about the implications of leaving the EU. Only 1.7 per cent have undertaken a serious degree of planning for this eventuality.

It would be wise for more companies to have a serious conversation about how a Brexit would affect them – because this is a very real possibility.

So should we stay?

Arguments to Remain in the European Union:

  • We are economically stronger in the EU
  • Wealth of overseas, high-skilled talent results in a healthy UK games industry
  • Because we have accessto best talent in Europe we can win business from across the world
  • The EU represents 560m potential customers, which can be reached instantly
  • Leaving means we will have no say in the EU market
  • The UK acts as a link between the US and EU. Because of our language, our competitive labour market and access to talent.This happens as the UK is in Europe and governed by the same rules

Or should we go?

Arguments to Leave the European Union:

  • The UK would gain sovereignty and EU regulations, seen as onerous and impeding growth, could be scrapped
  • The UK could cut better trade deals with the rest of the world, rather than focusing on the EU or relying on the EU to do this
  • A ‘points-based’ immigration system would enable theUK to better control its borders and focus on high-skilled talent the UK needs rather than letting in workers from EU countries on an unrestricted basis
  • Fears about exit from single market are unfounded as EU would have to strike a good deal with the UK because of the size of its market

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