A paper published today (2nd March) by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Publishing (APPG) is calling on government to keep barriers on trade "at an absolute minimum" for books during negotiations to leave the European Union - whatever trade-off is offered to impose them.
While praising publishers' "resilience" in wake of Brexit, the report advised the government not to accept trade barriers on book or other publications (physical or digital) "in exchange for lowering them on other goods".
The paper, the result of a roundtable discussion between the All Party Group and experts from across the trade, in turn outlined a number of recommendations that would help the government to tackle post-Brexit challenges facing the industry. These included access to funding, hiring international talent, uncertainty, currency fluctuations and the potential that the UK will have a reduced voice in policies developed in the EU.
It recommended the government covers "any loss of funding" to research and culture via domestic investment; that it ensures immigration policy enables publishers to have the people and skills it needs; and that it sets out a "clear plan and timetable" for leaving the EU, in order to boost business and consumer confidence.
The report further called on publishers and the government to work together to ensure the UK publishing industry’s global success is developed and supported, emphasising that the UK book and journal industry is worth £4.4bn and UK-published material is "sought after globally".
"But we have not got to be this global leader by accident," the report reads. "The UK government needs to ensure the framework is right to enable industry to maintain its top position."
Among the overarching challenges facing publishing, it cites enforcement of copyright around the world, stressing "if authors can't get paid and publishers can't exploit their rights, the whole system falls down". It also highlighted the lack of profile of publishing in trade missions, challenges associated with publishers’ major supplier, Amazon, as the main self-publishing route to market, and what it refered to as a "myth" that publishers would benefit from disruption by tech players.
In light of these issues, the paper recommended that information is included about the success of the UK’s publishing and book industry as part of each and every trade mission; the government gives a clear message that copyright is "not red tape"; the government undertakes measures to support "a properly diverse eco-system for book buying and book finding both online and on the high street".
Iain Wright, MP for Hartlepool and chair of the APPG on Publishing, said: “UK published material, whether the latest bestseller, a renowned scientific journal or textbooks for the classroom are sought after globally. But the publishing industry’s success does not exist in a vacuum.
“This report sets out areas where government and the industry can work together to ensure the sector’s continued strength, such as ensuring there is a strong copyright regime and a diverse ecosystem for book buying. At a time when Brexit is raising new challenges for business, we hope the government commits to supporting this global success story.”