British Film Industry Calls for U.K. to Remain in EU as Brexit Vote Begins

U.K. Brexit, European Referendum - Getty H 2016
Credit: Getty / Ian Forsyth

U.K. celebrities, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Jude Law and Chiwetel Ejiofor, signed a 'love letter' to British voters urging them to vote to remain, but polls suggest the referendum is too close to call.

Polling stations across the U.K. opened Thursday morning as Britain's historic European Referendum got underway.

Voters are being asked to decide between remaining or exiting the European Union, a fiercely contested debate that has been dubbed the "Brexit" and has dominated media coverage for recent weeks, only interrupted for occasional reports from England's performance at the Euro 2016 soccer championships.

Both sides have been aggressively setting out their arguments amid a cloud of uncertainty as to the actual economic consequences should Britain decide to leave the EU.

With most polls suggesting the vote will go down to the wire, Britain's European future isn't likely to become clearer until early Friday local time.

The issue has split Britain down the middle but not so the country's creative industries, which have largely come out in favor of remaining in the EU.

Earlier this week, a group of leading film producers, led by Working Title's Tim Bevan and including James Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, Iain Canning (The King's Speech), Lord David Puttnam (Chariots of Fire), Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman: The Secret Service) and Elizabeth Karlsen (Carol) urged to country to stay in the EU, which is said had helped benefit the U.K.'s film, TV and games industry.

"Being in the E.U. means that our feature films, our television programs and our games can travel far more easily across borders because they are not subject to quotas or taxes of any kind in Europe," the group said in a statement, highlighting how British talent could work in other European countries without a work permit while all equipment could travel "carnet" free — that is, without facing tariffs or taxes.

"For those of us that remember the horror of carnets, the idea of having them back in our lives is a terrifying thought!," the group added. "All of this would be at risk if we were to leave."

Elsewhere, various celebrities have aired their opinions on the matter. Last month, over 250 notably names — including actors Patrick Stewart, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Keira Knightley, Jude Law and director Steve McQueen — signed a "love letter" urging Brits to oppose the Brexit, much like the "love letter" sent to Scotland for its independence referendum in 2014.

"Our global creative success would be severely weakened by walking away," the letter said. "From the smallest gallery to the biggest blockbuster, many of us have worked on projects that would never have happened without vital funding or by collaborating across borders."

Even some personalities who many have assumed would vote to leave have come out in favor of remaining — one being the outspoken, and allegedly xenophobic, former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson.

“It’s an extraordinary thing that (fellow host) James [May] and I only agree on three things: which sandwich spread is delicious, the old Subaru Legacy Outback is a good car and Britain staying in,” The Guardian quoted Clarkson as telling British Prime Minister David Cameron. "I have not, with the greatest of respect, heard one politician say anything that’s caused me to change my mind."

Speaking at the Sheffield Doc/Fest last week, Palme d'Or winner Ken Loach said that he was in favor of remaining, but argued that the referendum has been hijacked by the ruling classes who want to exploit U.K. workers, with people being made to vote between the two sides.

On the leave campaign, however, both Oscar-winner Michael Caine and comedian John Cleese have said the U.K. should exit, with Caine claiming that the country would be better off without "being dictated to by thousands of faceless bureaucrats” who Cleese suggested had taken away "any trace of democratic accountability." Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes also has called the 28-nation EU an "autocratic and anti-democratic" institution that should not influence the British parliament.

While Caine, Cleese and Fellowes appear to be in the minority in the U.K. entertainment industry, the opinions of film producers and TV stars don't quite hold as much sway with the public as they might hope. For all the love letters, warnings and even words from disgraced motor-show hosts, Britain, and its thriving creative sector, could still wake up Friday to a decidedly unclear future.