Will Ireland Be Brexit's Big Winner?

Courtesy of Sundance Institute
John Carney's indie sleeper 'Sing Street' filmed in Ireland.

The Irish industry could benefit as the U.K. pulls out of Europe.

It's just a one-hour flight from London to Dublin, but in the wake of last week's Brexit vote, the two cities seem worlds apart.

London is in the center of a political and financial storm following Britain's June 23 vote to leave the European Union. The British pound has tanked, financial markets are stumbling and the local film industry is left wondering: What happens now?

In Dublin, the Irish film industry is coming off of one of the best years in its history, thanks to award-winning movies like Room, Brooklyn and The Lobster, not to mention John Carney's indie sleeper Sing Street. And, as an EU member with no plans to leave, Ireland and its filmmakers can continue to rely on European film subsidies and full access to the European market.

The country's industry is clearly expanding: Early this year, the city of Limerick gave planning approval for the construction of a new film studio. It will be the country's third backlot, complementing the Ardmore and Ashford studios located south of Dublin.

For producers uncertain about what Brexit will mean, Ireland certainly looks appealing, not least because of its generous 32 percent tax incentive for film and TV shoots.

“Obviously Ireland will continue to benefit from being a part of the EU, Irish productions will continue to qualify for EU subsidies and for EU television quotas,” says James Hickey, CEO of the Irish Film Board. “But it's too early to say what Brexit will actually mean for us. The real answer is we simply don't know.”

Amid the speculation, there are some suggestions of significant long-term gains for the Irish industry.

Dublin has built itself up as a postproduction hub in recent years, attracting work from major U.S. networks, and this growing arena — one often heavily reliant on international talent — could receive a boost from the U.K.'s dramatic European departure.

Gareth Young, who heads up the post and VFX studio Egg, whose credits include BBC/Amazon series Ripper Street, points to the free movement of labor between EU nations, something at the top of the agenda for many U.K. "leave" campaigners.

For the pilot of upcoming Jenna Elfman-starring Sony/ABC sitcom Imaginary Mary, Egg had a team of 60 working on the VFX, with around 40 coming from within the EU (and not the U.K.) to work on the project.

"We have people from all over Europe coming to work with us," says Young. "Romanians, Bulgarians, Germans, French — we had all of those in our team."

Were the U.K. to follow through with promises of restrictions for EU citizens, it would require those seeking employment there to obtain a work permit, which can be a pricey — not to mention bureaucratic — affair.

"It's around £1,000 ($1,350) per person, so if you've got 100 people, that's a lot of money," says Young. "Whereas in Ireland we can take people from any country around Europe to bring them into our team. So that's going affect the VFX industry over there."

Of course, the immediate effect for Ireland isn't quite so rosy, with the U.K. suddenly becoming a whole lot cheaper thanks to the pound's post-referendum tanking.

"This doesn't make us as competitive as were a week ago, which is unfortunate," says Young, adding that the exchange rate change also makes it more expensive for U.K. clients wanting to work in Ireland.

But with the U.K. expected to have a somewhat rocky, turbulent road ahead as it attempts to renegotiate its international trade deals and untangle itself fro the EU, those with long-term projects might well turn to the Emerald Isle.

"I think if the U.S. was looking towards Europe for something more stable, they'd probably stay within the Eurozone, and then Ireland is a better option," says Young. "[The U.K.] may be competitive now, but nobody knows what it's going to be like a year's time. But it's all speculation ... I could be proved both a liar and an idiot in about three weeks' time!"

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