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UK Music outlines live sector’s key no-deal Brexit concerns

By | Published on Wednesday 4 September 2019

UK Music

As further dramas unfolded in Westminster yesterday – with those MPs who oppose a so called no-deal Brexit seeking to constrain Britain’s Bullshitter In Chief and no-deal fan ‘Boris’ Johnson – the boss of UK Music, Michael Dugher, outlined some key concerns for the music industry regarding the UK exiting the European Union with no deal in place.

Those concerns were set out in a letter sent by the cross-sector trade group to new Home Secretary Priti Patel. It mainly focused on the impact new immigration and export rules could have on the UK’s live music industry.

Of particular concern is the fact that, since Johnson’s new minority government was installed, there has been mixed messaging about what will happen to the free movement of people between the UK and the rest of the EU if a no-deal Brexit does occur on 31 Oct.

Dugher writes: “UK Music is deeply concerned about conflicting reports from the Home Office in recent weeks regarding the possibility of the immediate ending of freedom of movement in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit this autumn. Such a policy would cause considerable disruption to the international live music touring industry, in terms of UK artists travelling to the EU for concerts and vice versa”.

Noting that an immediate end to freedom of movement on 31 Oct is actually contrary to current government guidance on a no-deal Brexit, Dugher then states that if that policy was implemented “it could result in retaliation from EU member states, requiring UK musicians to apply for expensive and bureaucratic visas and work permits in order to continue to tour the EU, severely harming our ability to enhance our export potential following recent year-to-year growth of 7%”.

Recent media reports suggest that the new regime at the Home Office has already backtracked on its plan to immediately end freedom of movement on the day a no-deal Brexit occurs. But, Dugher goes on, “without a clear and unambiguous commitment from ministers [on this point] this only adds to the uncertainty that the music industry is currently experiencing”.

The government has been pushing out advice on what might happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit for quite some time now, and UK Music recently aggregated all the advisory documents relevant to the music industry. But, while the total word count of all that advice is now pretty impressive, the substance of many of those documents is less so.

“The current information provided by the government to companies for ‘no-deal’ is worringly inadequate when preparing the industry for the possible changes ahead”, Dugher writes.

He then focuses on one particular potential negative impact of a no-deal Brexit which has become a talking point of late especially in the grassroots music community – those artists whose profit-margins when touring are incredibly tight and who usually rely on merchandise sales as well as ticket money to break even.

Writes Dugher: “We are also concerned about the impact that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit could have on the ability of the UK music industry to sell merchandising and move equipment when they are touring in mainland Europe. According to government guidance, in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit anyone bringing goods into or taking goods out of the UK in baggage or a small motor vehicle which they intend to use for business will be forced to ‘declare your goods and pay import duty and VAT before you move them across the border'”.

This, he points out, “could have a drastic impact on our members to sell merchandise and transport equipment on European tours and result in a loss of income of up to 40%, threatening the viability of future tours and damaging Britain’s export earnings”.

Concluding, the UK Music letter states: “We ask you for urgent clarity over the government’s advice to industry concerning a ‘no-deal’ Brexit in relation to live music and to establish a policy framework in relation to immigration that will enable our sector’s growth to continue to thrive”.

Of course, in the current political climate in the UK, the problem with writing to ministers is you’re never sure they’ll still be in the job by the time you get your reply. And while there is now a little more unity in government around the kind of Brexit that should be pursued, that has resulted in even less unity in Parliament.

Plus, even in government, when it comes to proper detail, there is still plenty of mixed-messaging from ministers and officials. And where the messaging is more consistent, when you pull that message apart, it’s often just a waffley way of saying “we don’t really know”.

So fun times for everyone! Maybe now’s the moment for artists to shift over to having holograms tour on their behalf.