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Brexit Update and New Head of International Role at The MU

Dave Webster, former National Organiser for Live Performance has recently been appointed as Head of International at the MU. Here he brings members an update on our work to address the impact of Brexit for musicians.

Published: 15 July 2022 | 11:08 AM Updated: 15 July 2022 | 11:45 AM
3D graphic map of the UK and rest of Europe. UK and EU flag designs are over each area and 3D trucks wait at each side of the crossing showing the difficulty transporting goods.
The Union, along with industry colleagues, is pushing for a reliable, central information hub for the music industry. Image credit: Shutterstock.

Dave’s new role as Head of International at the MU will ensure we are able to prioritise the issue of Brexit, can be a leading voice for musicians and the wider music industry and provide our members with up to date guidance on international touring, as he explains below.

MU in Parliament

A debate took place in the House of Lords on 7 July regarding musicians and other creative professionals working in the European Union. Following submissions from various music industry organisations, Peers gathered to make statements and pose questions to Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con), Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Lord Parkinson has since met with the UK Music Board, including MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl, to provide an update on Brexit among other issues affecting our sector.

At times, the impression is given by some that the bulk of Brexit-related problems have either been solved by Government and industry or gone away. We know this is not the case and we continue to receive reports of problems from our members. The music industry recently briefed the (now resigned) DCMS Minister Julia Lopez at a Touring Working group meeting on the problems that remain for musicians trying to work in the EU. The MU submitted a 9-page report which included case studies sent in by members.

Many of the Lords in attendance at the 7 July debate reflected these issues and showed an understanding of the ongoing impact. It was good to see robust calls for a ‘Cultural exemption’; a potential solution to the cost and bureaucracy of Carnets. There was also reference to the need for a wider solution to problems faced by specialist hauliers supplying the creative industries, not just deliver for those major companies that can afford to run a base in the UK and one in the EU.

Carnets

We desperately need a fix for our Orchestras, for example, who have purchased specialist vehicles to transport a myriad of highly valuable instruments, only to find they are unable to fulfill their duties due to the Cabotage and Cross trade regulations. These trucks sit dormant in an EU lorry park while an EU haulier takes the instruments to their destination(s). The increased costs of taking, selling, and consequently declaring and accounting for merchandise sales was also raised in the debate.

It is not only professional musicians who are impacted by Brexit, our well renowned youth orchestras are facing the same problems on school music tours to Europe. They are also subject to expensive Carnets and facing delays at borders as customs officials process a bus full of school children and their equipment. We need solutions now.

The Union, along with industry colleagues, is pushing for a reliable, central information hub for the music industry, and a transition support fund to help musicians with the increased costs of touring. If a hub was established, we would want to play a key role in keeping its content up to date for our members. The £1.1B fishing industry received £23M in post-Brexit support, yet the £5.8B (in good times) British music industry has received nothing.

The need for a constructive and productive relationship with Europe is paramount

Lord Frost’s admission in Zurich earlier this year that the UK Government had taken ‘too purist’ an approach to Brexit for the creative industries was referred to in the debate.

The need for a constructive and productive relationship with Europe is paramount if we are to reestablish the UK’s position as a global creative powerhouse. If we do not imminently get some creative fixes for our sector, we stand to lose that recognition.

It is because the music industry has been so tenacious in its approach that we have the small wins we have around Spain and Greece, Splitter Vans and hopefully Eurostar St Pancras as a designated port for processing CITES Musical Instrument Certificates.

Last week our General Secretary Naomi Pohl met with Opposition Leader Keir Starmer who pledged ongoing support for musicians and artists as detailed in his speech to the Centre for European Reform on 4 July.

Will the new Ministers in post seek to actively engage in finding solutions to our Brexit problems, we hope so. The Union will be writing and seeking to meet with them as soon as possible.

General Secretary's comments

MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl said of Dave’s new post:

“As part of my General Secretary election campaign, I said that we would be the go-to hub for international touring guidance for our members. Dave’s appointment to Head of International, a new role within the structure of the MU, will help us to deliver that.

“Dave is highly respected by members, Government and the industry and has become a leading expert on the issues that Brexit has posed for musicians. I am grateful for all the work he is doing in this area and look forward to working with him in his new position.”

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