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British artists and music execs sign open letter on the Brexit shambles

By | Published on Tuesday 11 December 2018


As the Brexit debacle goes from a joke to a farce to a very black comedy, a plethora of UK artists, music business executives and music industry organisations have signed an open letter calling on the government to find a better way forward for the UK’s future relationship with the European Union.

The letter comes, of course, after Theresa May announced she was postponing a vote in Parliament on the Brexit deal she has negotiated with the EU. The Prime Minister decided to not put her deal before the House Of Commons after it became clear it would be defeated by a significant margin, with both remainers and leavers being equally disparaging of May’s proposals for how Brexit might be achieved.

It’s really not clear what will happen next, as the rest of the EU has strongly indicated that the deal on the table is as good as gets, given the UK government’s refusal to move on certain key points like freedom of movement.

Meanwhile, the campaign for a second referendum – perhaps offering a choice between the current Brexit deal, exiting the EU with no deal in place, or not exiting the EU at all – is gaining considerable momentum, aided by the European courts saying that the UK could cancel the two-year Brexit process at any time before those two years are up on 29 Mar.

The open letter, signed by artists like Annie Lennox, Chrissie Hynde, Jamie Cullum, Paloma Faith and David Arnold, and organisations like the MU, AIM, MMF, BASCA and MPG, concludes: “No-one voted for this situation, whether they voted leave or remain. It is critical to find a way out of this mess, and therefore we ask you to examine alternative options to maintain our current influence and freedom to trade”.

The letter also reviews the various ways in which Brexit could negatively impact on the UK music industry. Potential issues include duties being charged on the UK industry’s physical product as it moves around Europe, future changes to copyright rules in the UK or the EU that negatively impact on British music makers, and – most pressingly of all – any new costs or paperwork that might be introduced for UK acts touring the continent.

On potential issues for touring artists, the letter states: “Live music is at the heart of every artist’s business and contributed around £1 billion to the UK economy, and freedom of movement is core to an artist’s ability to tour and promote their art”.

Meanwhile, on IP issues, the letter references the near-completion new European Copyright Directive, which – it says – “is designed to help protect the value of our industry’s output on major technology platforms. The UK music industry could be at a significant disadvantage to our peers in the countries remaining in the EU without these protections”.

It goes on: “According to a survey conducted by UK Music on the music industry’s views on Brexit, only 2% thought it would have a positive impact on their chances of work. In the post-Brexit UK, there is a clear risk that reaching consumers and fans will be more expensive, and international markets will be harder to access. Live events will run the danger of being delayed or even cancelled, which would undermine the financial and cultural benefits that this vibrant sector brings to UK PLC”.

You can read the full letter here.

Deviate Digital CEO Sammy Andrews, who help organise the Music4EU letter, said this morning: “Rarely do so many factions within the music industry unite on any subject, but Music4EU’s signatory list so far is a clear indication of the level of concern over the current mess, and how widely it impacts every corner of this sector. Brexit is an unmitigated disaster for Britain’s world-leading music industry”.

Meanwhile one of that artist signatories, Sam Duckworth, aka Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, added: “It’s a connected age, where diminishing rights and barriers to trade should be a thing of the past. We need to make sure we don’t isolate ourselves from our wider cultural family. Be it sharing a stage, a marketplace or as part of a team, Brexit is causing mass uncertainty. Music is a big part of the economy and is the front line of the warm British welcome. It is essential that we are given clear guidelines, promises and safeguards for this to continue”.

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