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Brexit latest: UK government condemned over uncertainty for music industry as Boris Johnson rushes deal

Roisin O'Connor
Angela Christofilou/The Independent

A petition has been launched calling for the protection of the music touring industry as Boris Johnson attempts to rush through his Brexit deal.

Concern has grown over the past two years over the lack of discussion or information regarding the fate of the UK music industry after Brexit.

Earlier this month, music industry figures warned that a no-deal Brexit would make touring “simply unviable for many artists” in light of new government guidelines for cultural, heritage and sporting professionals wishing to tour Europe.

The document from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport indicated that touring artists would face additional issues with documentation and the transport and sale of goods between individual EU member states.

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher told The Independent: “The thousands of people signing the petition reflects the immense frustration in the music industry over the lack of clarity from the Government about what Brexit could mean when it comes to freedom of movement, and the costs and bureaucracy that could mean the end of touring for so many struggling musicians.

“Live music in the UK generates around £1 billion a year for our economy and is a fantastic calling card across the world.”

He added: “We are already seeing the damage caused by this Brexit uncertainty. Some acts are cancelling or postponing European legs of their tours. We need to be doing even more, especially to promote British exports such as music, and help promote the best of British talent around the globe.”

As early as November 2018, BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor said that a “strong” agreement with the EU was essential to ensure Brexit did not impact on Britain’s musical imports and exports.

“Music can help to showcase what is exciting about the UK as we forge new trading relationships,” he told The Independent, “but only if our government supports us by ensuring a strong Brexit deal that enables artists to tour freely, robustly protects music rights, and prevents physical music products being impeded in transit.”

A statement on the British Musician’s Union says a bad deal could threaten its members’ ability to make a sustainable living.

“We know because many of our members recall gigging and touring in the days before the European Union,” the statement reads.

Before the EU, bands were subjected to long waits at border crossings while their gear and travel permits were checked by customs officers.

If Parliament blocks UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s deal and a no-deal Brexit takes place, musicians could see the reintroduction of the carnet – an old customs document that required by bands and orchestras to avoid paying import tax on their instruments. A carnet would be needed for each shipment and can cost as much as £700 a year.

The petition states: “Requirements for multiple work visas, driving permits, customs checks on equipment and merch etc may make touring Europe financially unviable for smaller artists. It may also affect European artists’ decision to include the UK on their tours.

“We’d like to see any Brexit Deal contain mutual, temporary exceptions on work permits, driving permits and customs allowances, covering the duration of tours in order to guarantee the survival of the touring industry, protecting both jobs and the UK’s reputation for exporting talent.”

At the time of writing, the petition had received almost 12,000 signatures, meaning the Government must respond to it. If it receives 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in Parliament.

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