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Is Brexit done? Ask a musician.

I have been sent versions of this story by a number of my rock music loving friends who know my interest and involvement in politics and are horrified by these events and the overall impact Brexit is having on live music. Quite rightly too.


I find the idea that we have ‘got Brexit done’ pretty laughable.  We have left the EU, but the deal that was delivered was awful.  We won’t have ever truly got Brexit done until the side effects of the dreadful Boris deal have been dealt with.   Thankfully the most serious of the failings has been largely solved, which is the anomaly around Northern Ireland, but we still have many other issues to deal with – like fishing, the issues at Dover and the impact of Brexit on touring musicians, which is what this post is about.


My suspicion is there will be an ‘over zealous official’ response to this story, and the Government will hope it will go away so they can carry on ignoring the impact on British music.  It shouldn’t, this is a big issue and it impacts British artists wanting to travel to Europe more than it does in reverse.


Let me explain why.  For a British artist or band, there is a relatively limited opportunity to grow a fan base in the UK, and previously, when they have developed a reasonable level of support, the next available step has been to focus on Europe.  That has now become much more difficult, with the additional costs of visas and import documentation denying our best musicians the chance to take their first step in expanding beyond the UK.   I can give you a perfect example of how this has worked in the past.  The first large gig I went to was in Germany in 1980, the support band were a relatively unknown act called Iron Maiden, who used the tour as a way of building their support base.   Not long after this,  they released their second album and had enough European success to take on their own headlining tour in Europe.   That first tour as support for KISS was really important to them, it put them in front of European fans that might not otherwise have seen them, fans that would have then bought albums and spread the word about exactly how good they were.   They are now, probably with one exception, the biggest Heavy Metal band on the planet and have been for some time.   That’s not just a British brand that is helping millions around the world have fun, it is a brand that puts Britain on the map and which makes money for the UK economy. 


With the situation as it is we have to ask where the next Iron Maiden comes from, or the next Deep Purple, or Black Sabbath?  You see, historically we have been great at this.  But there is no doubt, Boris’ Brexit deal has made it much, much harder for us to continue to be great at it.   The Guardian article linked to above suggests that there are 45% less UK bands at European festivals this year than there were in 2019.  That is 45% less exposure for our bands and 45% less chance of our bands becoming major music exporters. We should be worried.


Our politicians should not be allowed to claim that Brexit is done until the anomalies in the Brexit deal are resolved, and we, as individuals, should not let them get away with using that language until they have.


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