What will happen to UK musicians in the event of a No Deal Brexit?

ISM CEO Francesca Treadaway

ISM CEO Francesca Treadaway

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) on the report ‘The consequences of “No Deal” for UK business by the House of Commons Exiting the European Union Committee.

[As part of ISM’s Save Music campaign the organisation is calling for musicians to share their experiences of how Brexit is affecting their work. Email ISM at savemusic@ism.org and sign up to the campaign at savemusic.org.uk, where you can watch and share the campaign video.]

At ISM we are particularly concerned regarding the free movement of musicians and their instruments between the UK and EU. The consequences of “No Deal” for UK business report correctly identifies mobility as a key issue for the creative industries, including the music industry, specifically ‘the ability to move people very quickly without friction’. As the report says, if the UK leaves without a deal, this will cause significant uncertainty on the terms under which musicians would be able to travel to the EU for work. Sectors such as the music and creative industries ‘need flexibility in how quickly they can send staff across the EU’, particularly those which involve ‘less predictable schedules or touring’ – such as the music industry.

Musicians’ livelihoods depend on the ability to travel easily and cheaply with their instruments around multiple countries in the EU for work in a short period of time. For a large proportion of musicians, a significant part of their earnings comes from working within the EU. In order that musicians can continue to generate income and contribute to the £4.5bn (€5.02bn) the music industry already contributes to the UK economy, it is essential that musicians and their instruments/equipment are able to continue travelling to and working in the EU. If freedom of movement ceases, the ISM has identified the introduction of a two-year, cheap and admin-light, multi-entry touring visa in any withdrawal agreement as the most effective way forward.

Given the risk to the music industry, we urge the Government to provide further information and clarification regarding the preparations for the UK to leave the EU in a no deal situation as a matter of urgency. The government must protect the music industry and music professionals that work within it from any adverse impact. These preparations are vital to the future work of musicians, who have been booked for work in the EU for dates that fall past 31 October 2019. These musicians need to know that they can travel freely to work in the EU – including the transportation of their instruments and other equipment – in order to honour these bookings following a no deal Brexit.’

Since the results of the referendum in 2016, the ISM has researched the impact of the UK’s impending departure from the EU on the music profession. In October 2018 we launched our campaign Save Music with a video and petition (visit savemusic.org.uk to sign up and share) calling for freedom of movement to be protected for musicians. In May 2019, the ISM published its fourth report Impact of Brexit on Musicians, building on the evidence base from three previous surveys conducted between October 2016 and May 2018.

The results included:

  • Almost 50% of respondents identified an impact on their professional work since the EU referendum result in 2016 – 95% of whom said it was negative (from 19% in 2016, to 26% in 2017, to 40% in 2018, and to 50% in 2019)
  • 63% of respondents cited difficulty in securing future work in EU27/EEA countries as the biggest issue they face due to Brexit – and more than one in 10 respondents reported that offers of work have been withdrawn or cancelled with Brexit given as a reason.
  • 85% of survey respondents visit the EU27 for work at least once a year, 22% visit the EU27/EEA more than 11 times per year and more than a third (35%) spend at least a month per year working in EU27/EEA countries.
  • One in seven musicians have less than a week’s notice between being offered work and having to take it.
  • 64% of survey respondents said a two-year, multi-entry visa would allay their concerns about their future ability to work in the EU27/EEA if freedom of movement rights were lost
  • 95% of respondents preferred the two-year visa over an ‘extension of the Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) visa.
  • 83% of respondents said it would be beneficial for a government department (e.g. BEIS) to provide a dedicated hotline for musicians to offer guidance on mobility issues
  • More than half of respondents (58%) reported that they were concerned about the transportation of instruments and/or equipment in the EU27 & EEA in the future.

But what is becoming increasingly of concern is the lack of clarity around the preparations for the No Deal Brexit, which is becoming more likely. These preparations are vital to the future work of musicians, who will have been booked for work in the EU for dates that fall past 31 October 2019. These musicians will need to know that they can travel freely to work in the EU – including the transportation of their instruments and other equipment – in order to honour these bookings following a no deal Brexit.

The conclusion we drew from our research is that musicians’ livelihoods depend on the ability to travel easily and cheaply around multiple countries for work in a short period of time. So if freedom of movement is to end, the Government must ensure that free movement rights are maintained for musicians, or introduce a two-year multi-entry visa for British musicians working in the EU27 – which 95% of respondents preferred over the Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE). PPE is not the answer. We can also see just how much the music workforce relies on UK-EU mechanisms – for example, the EHIC scheme and A1 certificate – to support and enable them to work in the EU27/EEA. We are lobbying Government to take this into consideration and also calling for clarification around the preparations for a No Deal.

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