UK Music reaffirms Brexit concerns ahead of crunch Commons vote

Ahead of the looming vote at Westminster, UK Music CEO Michael Dugher wrote to Theresa May to warn of the risks Brexit poses to the UK music industry.

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11/01/2019: Ahead of the looming vote at Westminster, UK Music CEO Michael Dugher wrote to Theresa May to warn of the risks Brexit poses to the UK music industry.

In his letter to the PM, Mr Dugher said he was “deeply worried” by the potential threats facing the UK music industry which contributes £4.5bn a year to the UK economy.

The letter outlined three major areas of concern:

Freedom of movement of people

Live music contributes around £1 billion to the economy and has grown by has grown by 49 per cent since 2012. At present, artists can play a concert in Amsterdam one night
and then simply travel to Paris the next with no associated costs or red tape as a result of freedom of movement of people.

Losing this following Brexit is likely to have a serious impact on touring musicians and crews, and risks our ability to grow audiences and limits millions of fans not being able to see their favourite UK acts. Countries such as France have traditionally required work permits for performances by artists from non-EU countries.

The truth is costly bureaucracy will make touring simply unviable for very many artists. This puts the development of future globally-leading UK talent at risk.

While the UK’s commercial music industry outperforms the rest of the economy on so many indicators, average earnings in the sector are the below the average earnings of the rest of the economy.
The average wage in the UK last year was £29,002 yet music creators earn significantly less at £20,504 a year. The vast earnings attributed to super-rich global stars are very much the exception, not the norm.
We desperately need a reciprocal system that supports temporary short-term permissions and exemptions for musicians and crews – both for those coming to the UK and those performing in the EU – to keep our touring industry vibrant and thriving.

This could be achieved through the creation of a “touring passport” that acts as a waiver for visas and permits.

The existing EU Blue Card is a work and residency permit for nonEU/EEA nationals and is a useful precedent by which a touring passport could be designed. How the UK designs its future immigration system could have a profound impact on how this issue can be resolved. The UK benefits greatly from cultural exchange.

Individual classical musicians frequently visit the UK at short notice to play in flagship venues like the Royal Albert Hall. Our musicians are also in high demand at orchestras in the EU.
Session players also come from EU member states to world-renowned recording studios such as Abbey Road and AIR.

UK Music was disappointed by the Government’s recent Immigration White Paper which presented a crude skills and salary threshold approach to the UK’s future migration needs. The White Paper follows the report of the Migration Advisory Committee which failed to acknowledge the importance of migration to the music industry and the need for a reciprocal approach.
Both the White Paper and Migration Advisory Committee did however set a precedent by suggesting the UK agriculture industry should benefit from a seasonal workers scheme allowing lower skilled EU nationals to come to work here.

We propose that the music industry has features which similarly do not work with salary or formal skills thresholds and ask that the Government considers a similar approach for music.

Freedom of movement of goods

Any restriction on movement across Europe could result in the introduction of a carnet, a temporary customs document detailing every piece of equipment and merchandise to avoid paying import duties and taxes.

On average carnets can cost around £1,000 to £2,000 and last around 12 months. EU bands coming to the UK may also be subject to this.

Whilst some physical goods such as CDs and DVDs are zero-rated for tariff purposes, others, such as musical instruments and recording equipment, are not. Irrespective of tariffs, possible delays at borders present a real risk.

It remains uncertain how the Government intends to address these issues in the long term in light of Brexit and we ask for further clarity.

Copyright legislative framework

Copyright is of fundamental importance to the music industry. It enables creators to derive a financial return for their work and provides an incentive for businesses to invest in creative content.

The European Union’s competency over copyright means UK domestic legislation is based on Directives emanating from the EU.

At present the EU provides a high level of protection for copyright works. We welcome the provisions in paragraphs 44 and 45 of the Political Declaration which provide for the protection and enforcement of intellectual property to stimulate creativity and seek to preserve high levels of protection under copyright law.

Withdrawal from the EU does not require substantial changes to the UK copyright framework.

This continuity is critical to ensuring confidence amongst music businesses. There is no evidence of the need for new exceptions to copyright.

We ask you to confirm that the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 provides the sufficient guarantees for protecting copyright law and that the UK Government will resist any attempts to weaken this through amendment.

We look forward to continuing to work with your Government to ensure that our artists, musicians and crews can continue to tour the EU, that we protect the UK’s domestic live music sector, that we guarantee goods can move seamlessly between borders, and that we maintain a legal intellectual property framework that remains robust and can drive growth.

The Government’s reply to UK Music’s letter is available here

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