Friday, 6 January 2017

The Friday Joke - Why do National Newspapers print this Brexit garbage?

Normally we have a Friday Joke. It seems to me that this week the biggest joke is a column by Frederick Forsyth in the Daily Express. Now unlike Mr Forsyth, I am not going to spout nonsense about subjects I know nothing about. I will stick to an area in which I've successfully run a business for 38 years. I am talking about the area of music and performing.

Mr Forsyth says in the Express today (I've only included the section on arts and culture as this is my field)

IN THE aftermath of the Brexit referendum vote loud were the wails predicting that all forms of cooperation with our neighbours in Europe would end with EU membership. This was always bunkum. Let me propose five areas where we will continue happily and intensively to collaborate with the continent.

Arts/culture Our musicians, concert parties, actors, dancers and pop stars right across the spectrum of the arts interact constantly with continental Europe. Our authors are hugely read across the landmass. Again, not a shred of evidence this will cease.

Anyone reading this may be tempted to presume that in a post Brexit world, it will be business as usual for musicians. This shows a catastrophic level of ignorance on the part of Mr Forsyth. I wouldn't presume to lecture him on the art of writing spy novels as that isn't my field. I do however feel qualified as to the effects that Brexit may have on musicians ( I say may have because no one has actually spelled out what Brexit means).

It seems that the preferred shape of Brexit for the Tory government involves restrictions on free movement of labour and restrictions on employment opportunities for EU nationals. This is highly likely to be reciprocated. Musicians are extremely vulnerable to this. There are hundreds, if not thousands of artists, musicians, bands and other performers who eke out a living playing in continental Europe. At present this is very straightforward as there are no restirctions. We have a customs union so there is no need for customs clearance of transport of equipment. There is no need to arrange work permits and there are reciproacal tax arrangements. In the brave new post Brexit world, it is highly likely that this will change. This is unlikely to affect major acts like The Rolling Stones and The Who. They have multi million pound set ups and management companies that are set up to deal with issues. Where it will make a huge difference is with small bands and up and coming artists. Many small scale tours turn in a small profit, enabling musicians to eke out a living. All of a sudden they will have to cope with all manner of non benign tax regimes on fees for performances. Merchandising such as t-shirts, CD's and badges may become liable for local sales taxes etc. Musicians will have to apply for work permits, even for one night appearances, as they are working.

I toured Scandinavia in the early 1980's.I was well aware of the issues in the pre EU world. Of course it is always possible that none of this will come to pass as we may have a soft Brexit, but neither, you, me Frederick Forsyth or his Jack Russell terrier know this. What I do know is that it will not make life easier for up and coming musicians and that can only be bad for the UK music industry. You may not care, you may think it is worth it. That is your perogative. Mr Forsyth may think it doesn't matter. Again, it's a free country and he's entitled to his opinion. But to claim that there will be no impact on musicians, in a national newspaper, is completely dishonest. I fully understand that the Express has a pro hard Brexit agenda. Again that is up to them. But if they have to publish misleading nonsense to con us all, you have to wonder what their real game is?

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