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Music industry says UK government’s “clueless” post-Brexit immigration policy will be “devasting” for British music

By | Published on Thursday 20 December 2018


Music industry trade bodies UK Music and the Incorporated Society Of Musicians have both hit out at a newly published white paper that outlines the UK government’s plans for a new immigration policy if and when Britain leaves the European Union. A major crack down on immigration, especially from other EU countries, has – of course – been a top priority for the government in all of its Brexit negotiations to date.

The white paper promises a “skills-based” immigration system “which favours experience and talent over nationality”. It also proposes that any of those skilled workers coming to the UK to work must earn a minimum of £30,000 a year to qualify for entry, which is a key point both UK Music and the ISM have criticised.

“Requiring musicians, songwriters and producers from the EU to earn salaries of at least £30,000 to work in the UK poses a major threat to the music industry where music creators earn on average £20,504, way below the average for other jobs”, says UK Music in a statement.

It then notes that “if the approach of the white paper is agreed, then the UK’s cultural industries may suffer retaliation from EU member states. This could mean extra costs and red tape for artists who need to cross borders for their work”.

ISM chief exec Deborah Annetts has a similar warning, stating that: “The end of freedom of movement will have a devastating impact on British musicians. The introduction of harsher immigration rules after Brexit will cause declining diversity and creativity in the British music industry. It could also potentially lead to the introduction of reciprocal immigration rules by EU countries”.

She continues: “While it is good news that government does not intend to immediately introduce a £30,000 minimum income threshold for new immigrants, we do urge for any future plans [to that effect] to be abandoned. Such a threshold is not compatible with the music profession, where earnings can be less. We look forward to working with the government during the consultation period”.

She added that other parts of the policy are “insufficient for musicians and the creative industries” and called on the government to instead “seek to retain existing freedom of movement rights, or failing that establish a two-year multi-entry touring visa for musicians”.

UK Music is also calling for the introduction of a “touring passport”, which would waive visas for musicians and crews coming to the UK temporarily.

The trade body’s CEO, Michael Dugher, firmly lays into the government’s proposals in his own statement, saying: “The UK music industry contributes £4.5 billion to the economy, with live music alone contributing around £1 billion. As we’ve made repeatedly clear, a crude salaries and skills approach to freedom to work post-Brexit just doesn’t work for so many artists and musicians. We risk limiting the ability for European musicians to play in our world-leading festivals, venues and studios”.

“If this approach is reciprocated by the EU and there is no visa waiver in place, we risk making it very hard, if not impossible, for so many UK artists to tour in EU”, he goes on. “This is how they build an audience and frankly make any kind of living from music. It is frustrating in the extreme that there are still some people in government who have their fingers in their ears. This is utterly clueless. It’s vital that we don’t pull the rug from under Britain’s world-leading music industry”.

Announcing the white paper yesterday, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Today’s proposals are the biggest change to our immigration system in a generation. We are taking a skills-based approach to ensure we can attract the brightest and best migrants to the UK”.

“These measures will boost our economy and benefit the British people”, he concluded, despite pretty much all economic forecasts on the UK’s future post-Brexit saying otherwise.