Government accused of putting fish before music and treating creative industries “like an afterthought”

Anger grows with accusations that the UK's £111billion cultural industries are being left to "endure a No Deal Brexit"

The government has been accused of treating the UK’s cultural industries as an “afterthought” in Brexit negotiations, and paying far more mind to the fishing industry.

Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal contained 359 mentions of the £1.2billion fishing industry, but not one of the UK’s £111billion cultural industries or £5.2billion music industry.

In failing to negotiate visa-free travel and Europe-wide work permits for musicians and crew, the current problems that surround post-Brexit touring stand to be far reaching. Beyond the fears that the new added huge costs to future live music tours of the continent will prevent rising and developing artists from being able to afford to do so, European festival promoters have said that they could be likely to book fewer UK acts as a result, and a great deal of jobs and income for crew, haulage and production will be lost.

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As NME reported yesterday (February 16), Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage was questioned by the DCMS committee over the government’s handling of the negotiations and for answers on finding a solution. As well as repeating that visa-free touring would not be compatible with the ideology of Brexit and that the EU were at fault for not accepting their proposals or providing a workable alternative, Dinenage faced criticism for the government’s lack of inaction in not already renegotiating terms for future touring with EU member states or for measuring the potential damage that Brexit could have.

Yesterday’s hearing also saw the government face accusations that “everyone decided that the creative industries were less important than the fishing industry”.

Responding, Dinenage told MPs: “No, I wouldn’t accept that. Certainly from our side we didn’t decide that. This is something that’s huge for our economy. It’s an international calling card for us.

“At no stage, did the UK government decide that this was not an important sector. At the end of the day, [the UK] were not able to negotiate the deal that would have worked for the the creative industries to be able to do what they need to do, and the deal that the EU were offering in exchange wouldn’t have worked.”

Charlie Steen from Shame performs at Pitchfork Festival at Grande Halle de La Villette on October 29, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns)
Charlie Steen from Shame performs at Pitchfork Festival at Grande Halle de La Villette on October 29, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Wolff – Patrick/Redferns)

In further questioning, committee chair Julian Knight argued that the DCMS had “relative lightweight power within government” and accused them of treating culture as an “afterthought” in negotiations and had been left to “endure a No Deal Brexit”.

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“Despite representing nearly a quarter of the UK economy, and in this sector £111billion, you’re actually as a department, almost an afterthought,” said Knight. “Frankly, it is quite unbelievable that fishing, however important that is to those communities, it’s a tiny part of the UK economy. This, which is a world-leading part of the UK economy, has been left to endure a No Deal Brexit.

“Is this not an indication Minister, that effectively the DCMS is a Cinderella department and that other departments need to take this much more seriously?

Dinenage then replied: “I don’t entirely accept the thrust of your argument, Chair, for the reason that DCMS have a pivotal role in bringing all of the other departments together. It is a bi-product of the system of government that we have.”

She continued: “The working group started in January, for the simple reason that the deal wasn’t concluded until the end of December.”

Yannis Philippakis from Foals performs at L' Olympia on February 3, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns)
Yannis Philippakis from Foals performs at L’ Olympia on February 3, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Wolff – Patrick/Redferns)

Earlier in the hearing Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians Deborah Annetts criticised the government for a lack of clarity and communication regarding the negotiations and the fallout, but said that she and others had followed up on the 280,000-strong petition calling for visa-free touring by coming up with their own visa agreement draft that had been seen by lawyers and submitted to the DCMS.

“We think there is a workable agreement there,” she said. “The work has been done, it’s just a question of government commitment.”

When the government’s stance that their “door remains open” should the EU change its mind over negotiating on touring was raised, they were criticised for not being proactive enough with it claimed that they should actually be “banging the EU’s door down” to find a solution. Read more about the latest hearing here.

Dinenage said that the government had set up a working group in the hope of providing assistance and clarity for artists on what touring individual EU member states would involve. No answer has yet been provided on how the government intend to stop the destruction of the UK’s touring, production, crew and haulage industries.

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