"Shaun the Sheep: The Movie" "Shaun the Sheep: The Movie"

The U.K. is all but certain to leave Creative Europe’s Media program in 2021 as Brexit is fully implemented. The news has spread anxiety through the nation’s creative industries. We’ll be returning to this issue in the coming months — here’s what we know so far:

What was announced, exactly?

The U.K. has just begun negotiating the terms of its future trading relationship with the European Union. Last week, the British government published its priorities for the negotiations. There was no mention of the E.U.’s Creative Europe Media program, which means that the country will almost definitely leave it at the end of this year.

Wait — so has Brexit happened or not?

Technically, yes. The U.K. left the E.U. on January 31, as mandated by the result of the public referendum in 2016. But under the terms of its departure, it remains bound to E.U. institutions until December 31, which is also when the current Media program ends. Even once out of the E.U., the U.K. could have sought to remain in the program when it is renewed next year, but appears to have chosen not to.

What does Creative Europe do?

It funds cultural and media projects across the continent. The sums are significant: in 2014–18, it awarded €89.5 million (US$98m) to 376 U.K.-based organizations and companies, and helped distribute 190 U.K. films in other European countries. The Media program focuses on film, tv, new media, and video games. Its current edition was launched in 2014; the next one will run 2021–27.

How much does it benefit the animation industry?

A fair amount. The Media program has funded the development and production of a wide range of projects, from Shaun the Sheep (image at top) to Lupus Films Productions’ 2016 holiday special We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. According to trade body Animation UK, it has given €6.0 ($6.6) million to U.K. animation producers since 2014.

Why would the U.K. want to leave the program?

To stay in, it would have to pay a fee calculated according to its GDP. The government may want to argue that the U.K. contributes more to the program than it gets out — it’s hard to know whether this is the case, not least because the government has yet to release the relevant statistics. In any case, it has signalled its intentions to extricate itself from E.U. institutions as far as possible: in its priorities, it says it wants the “right to manage [its] own resources as [it sees] fit.”

Could the national government replace the shortfall in funding?

Assuming the U.K. does leave the Media program, this is certainly what the film and tv industries hope will happen. They are lobbying the government, pointing out that the nation’s creative sector is thriving — it has grown at around twice the speed of the economy in the last decade.

As Kate O’Connor, director of Animation UK, tells Cartoon Brew, “We urge clear proposals to support the level and scale of investment to be replaced by newly designed, flexible, and specialist investment, with a dedicated strand for animated content and intellectual property development, building on our creative excellence and potential for growth in our share of the global markets.”

Is the U.K. still in the program until the end of this year?

Absolutely. Projects funded under the current program will not be affected, even if they continue into 2021 and beyond. Creative Europe is still taking applications from the U.K. until the end of the year. Anyone in the country looking for advice is urged to contact Creative Europe Desk UK.