THE latest battle in the war of words between musicians and the government over Brexit has kicked off. The limitations on musicians playing in Europe (and vice versa) in the wake of our leaving of the European Union has prompted more musicians to speak out against the government in the last few days.
Firstly, Elton John accused the UK government of being Philistines at the weekend. Now Bruce Dickinson, lead singer of heavy metal band Iron Maiden has joined in the criticism.
What did he have to say?
Speaking to Sky’s Kate Burley, Dickinson argued that the government was failing the music sector.
“Don’t get me started on the government’s attitude to the entertainment industry,” he told Burley. “We are probably one of the UK’s major exports … And yet we are sitting here. We can’t do anything.”
Hold on a minute. Wasn’t Dickinson a Brexit backer?
Yes, indeed. The Iron Maiden singer (and qualified pilot) said that it was no secret that he had voted to leave in the 2016 referendum.
But his issue is with what has happened since. “The idea is that after you’ve done it, you then go in and be sensible about the relationships you have with people.”
This, he suggested, has not happened. “So, at the moment all this guff about not being able to play in Europe and the Europeans not being able to play over here, work permits and all the rest of the rubbish … Come on. Get your act together.”
And he’s not the only one complaining?
No. Elton John was very scathing of the government’s attitude to the music sector in an interview published on Sunday.
“I’m livid about what the government did when Brexit happened,” he told the Observer. “They made no provision for the entertainment business, and not just for musicians, actors and film directors, but for the crews, the dancers, the people who earn a living by going to Europe. “We’ve been talking to Lord Strasburger about it, and we’ve been talking to Lord Frost, but we didn’t really get anywhere with him,” John added. “It’s a nightmare. To young people just starting a career, it’s crucifying.”
What is the issue anyway?
Brexit has imposed a whole series of restrictions and costs on musicians wanting to play in EU countries. Research by the Incorporated Society of Musicians, the body that represents the UK’s professional musicians, tour operators and manufacturers, found that 94 per cent of respondents had been negatively affected by the UK’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.
The research also found that less than one in 10 music businesses said government guidance was “adequate” in helping to cope with the current restrictions.
“People like me can afford to go to Europe because we can get people to fill in the forms and get visas done,” Elton John said, “but what makes me crazy is that the entertainment business brings in £111bn a year to this country and we were just tossed away.”