According to Malcolm Clay, secretary of the Association of Circus Proprietors of Great Britain, British circus schools don't produce artists at an acceptable standard, largely because their students refine skills like tightrope walking or fire-breathing as a hobby, not as part of a life-long career. As a result, British circuses rely on artists from countries with long-established histories of state-sponsored circus schools: they call on Argentina and Colombia for their renowned high wire acts, China and North Korea for acrobats, and Mongolia and Russia for horse riders. (Interestingly, they don't need to import bearded ladies.) Around 500 circus performers enter the U.K. annually, and roughly half of them must obtain short-term visas because they come from outside the European Union.
We won't have to wait too long for the follow-up story about British clowns currently on the dole and how foreign-born circuses performers are displacing them.