European Movement launches campaign to shine spotlight on plight of musicians post-Brexit

The Face the Music petition has already attracted almost 21,000 signatures.

The European Movement UK, the nation’s largest pro-European movement, has launched a new nationwide campaign.

February 16 marked the European Movement UK’s 75th anniversary. The organisation was founded in 1949, in the shadow of the war. For seven and a half decades, the group has been upholding European values, advocating shared interests, and pushing for friendship and cooperation across Europe’s borders.

And none more so than in the wake of Brexit.

This month, the organisation launched a ‘Face The Music’ project. It calls on the UK government to negotiate a bilateral agreement, which will guarantee visa-free travel for UK artists in Europe, and EU artists in the UK.

Britain’s music industry is a cultural and creative powerhouse, worth £1.1bn to the economy. In 2022, 37.1m people attended live music events. The pro-European campaigners warn that Brexit red-tape and costs is threatening the industry that we all need and love.

When the UK left the European Union, musicians lost their ability to work in Europe without restrictions. Consequently, performing and selling merchandise has become more difficult and expensive.

Research by the European Movement shows that the British music industry is witnessing a decline in talent. Up-and-coming stars are leaving Britain to live and work in the EU. Due to rising export costs, instrument manufacturers are losing customers from the EU, and freelance musicians face being shut out of work because they no longer have an EU passport. 

40 percent of musicians in the UK have lost work because of Brexit red tape. UK artists have lost an average of £11,545 of income since Britain exited the EU, the group’s research shows.

European Movement UK speaks of how UK politicians do not want to talk about Brexit, and its impact. They say this can and must change.  

“We are calling for a negotiated and reciprocated visa waiver agreement and a review of the restrictions on how many days an artist and support workers can work in the EU in 180 days.

“We urge the UK government and the European Union to explore the mechanisms that would allow this to be realised,” say the campaign organisers.

The Face the Music petition has already attracted almost 21,000 signatures, getting closer to being halfway to its goal of 50,000 signatures.

Andrew Plant, head of press and media at the European Movement UK, told Left Foot Forward how  the petition had reached 10,000 signatures in just 6 days. “This is by far our most successful launch to date (we have previously campaigned on lots of things, but most recently Erasmus and Horizon),” said Plant.

“The best engagement we have had is with the video content – people really seem to be watching and understanding the personal stories told by the musicians and artists we have interviewed. We have lots more of these to come, including with the head of the Royal Academy of Music, Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, which will go public on Monday February 19.

“The aim is over the next months to build a large YouTube gallery of these stories – a permanent reference to the plight of UK musicians and artists after leaving the EU, and the damage that is being done, told first-hand,” he added.

The campaign is working with large music organisations such as UK Music and the Musicians’ Union.

“While not ‘affiliated’ with them, we have kept them aware of our campaign from the outset. We, and they, have been speaking to politicians (for a long time!) and have genuinely high hopes that this will become a focus issue for DCMS at some point this year or next,” said Plant.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

Image credit: European Movement UK

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