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Government responds to music industry’s Brexit concerns – sort of

By | Published on Wednesday 16 January 2019


So, all that Brexit nonsense is still proving a bit of a distraction, isn’t it? Let’s have some more music-related Brexit gubbins, so that attempting to follow it all at least it counts as work.

One of the government’s Brexit ministers has sought to allay the music industry’s fears about the impact the UK leaving the European Union might have on the sector. He responded specifically to key concerns set out by UK Music, all of which are shared by all of the music community’s various trade groups and associations.

Robin Walker, a minister at the Department For Exiting The European Union, sent his letter to UK Music last week, safe in the knowledge that Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal – cleverly drafted to please absolutely no one – was already dead in the water.

He was, presumably, also safe in the knowledge that neither he nor any of his ministerial colleagues are likely to still be in their posts this time next year. So, you know, fuck it, let’s make a whole load of big promises now and leave it for some other poor fucker to admit they can’t be met down the line. That is, after all, the Brexit way.

Though, to be fair, Walker didn’t actually make many actual promises. Instead he said that the transition period set out in the Prime Minister’s always-doomed-never-going-to-happen-I-mean-what’s-the-fucking-point Brexit deal with the EU means that most of the music industry’s big concerns can be put off until 2021. Then he waffled on a lot about “collective endeavours” and “co-operative accord” and “sovereign choices”, all of which can be summarised as follows: “yeah, we’ll see what we can do about that, maybe it’ll be OK”.

For the music business, Brexit raises questions about the future distribution of the UK industry’s discs and merchandise around the rest of Europe and the future direction of the UK and EU copyright regimes. Though by far the most pressing concerns relate to whether Brexit will impact on British artists touring Continental Europe and European artists playing here. For the more grassroots end of the industry in particular, any new visa requirements or other bureaucracy could be enough to make tours unviable.

On that point Walker also employs the “won’t be a problem until 2021 and maybe it’ll be fine after that” approach. He writes: “I would like to reassure you that the UK and EU negotiating teams have reached agreement on the terms of an implementation period that will start on 30 Mar 2019 and last until 31 Dec 2020. During the implementation period, the UK will no longer be a member state of the European Union, but market access will continue on current terms and UK nationals, including musicians, will be able to travel and work in the EU as they do now”.

“Looking to the future”, he goes on, “I can assure you that … we recognise the long history of collective endeavours between the UK and EU to improve the lives of our citizens through cultural activities. Therefore, we will seek a specific co-operative accord with the EU which will make specific provision for mobility to allow UK musicians to perform in the EU and EU musicians to perform in the UK”.

He concludes: “We are working with our European partners with ambition and creativity to develop the details of a partnership that we firmly believe will be in the best interests of both the UK and the EU”. Yay for ambition and creativity!

Of course, Parliament delivered a big fat “NO” to May’s proposed Brexit deal last night leading to no confidence votes, new calls from the more staunch Brexiters for the UK to crash out of the UK with no deal in place at all, and increased hopes on the Remain side that a second referendum may now be inevitable which might – just might – result in Brexit being called off entirely. All of which make anything Walker wrote in his letter last week pretty much irrelevant.

Still, fans of waffley ways to say “maybe it’ll be OK” and “we’ll see what we can do” can read the full letter here.