In the UK Brexit was a hotpoint topic before Covid hit, and many of the predictions of what would happen afterwards, especially to UK musicians and crew, have now come to pass. Since the referendum to leave the European Union in 2016, musicians and their crew have suffered greatly as a new survey shows that nearly half of them have less work now than they did back in the pre-Brexit days.
Just a quick refresher on Brexit, On 23 June 2016, the country voted to leave the European Union. This vote played on the nationalistic fervor of mostly older British citizens who either wanted to lower or stop immigration, and others who wanted to return Britain to “what it once was.” 51.89% of voters voted to leave the EU, but it should be noted that most musicians (and young people for that matter) were against it from the beginning. They’ve since proven to be right. Today 57% of Brits think voting for Brexit was a bad idea.
The UK formally broke away from the EU on January 31st 2020, but that was right at the beginning of Covid and the lockdown came soon after. That meant that the full repercussions of Brexit couldn’t be fully evaluated until recently as things have returned normal.
On a most basic level, the real problems that UK musicians, artists and bands face is that the country isn’t large enough to support enough well-paying gigs to make a living. When the UK was part of the EU it was easy to travel to European countries and back, much like traveling from state to state in the U.S. There was no need to obtain visas or carnets (basically a separate visa for the music gear that you’re bringing into the country) to enter a country.
That’s all changed with Brexit. Now an artist or band traveling to any country in Europe music obtain an expensive visa and a carnet for their gear. Not only does this take enough time in advance so that last minute gigs are no longer possible, but the possibility of gear being held up entering the border crossing means that a band can’t enter into a country with the hopes of making it to a gig on time that evening. That means an extra day of travel and lodging has to be added, which might make the gig financially out-of-reach as a result.
Of course, this cuts the other way as well, with European artists, bands and musicians having the same problems entering the UK, which is an important music hub for that part of the world. U.S. artists and bands face the same problems, as the cost of entering the UK has increased to the point to where a tour is impossible unless underwritten by management or a record label.
The problems of Brexit don’t just hit UK musicians either. Since the breakaway, the country’s trade has dropped by 25% and industrial and consumer prices have shot up as a result. Investment in UK business is down 30%, and there’s a labor shortage thanks to immigration limitations.
The point is that the UK young had it right all along. Be careful what you wish for, because going backwards is rarely moving forward.[Image by rawpixel.com]