'Don't Throw Us Over Brexit Cliff-Edge': New UK Prime Minister Warned By British Music Execs

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Boris Johnson photographed on July 22, 2019 in Westminster, London.

LONDON -- Fresh from being confirmed as the next British prime minister, Boris Johnson has been urged not to throw the country's music industry over a cliff edge when he pursues his own Brexit strategy. 

As had been widely expected, Johnson was elected the new leader of the Conservative party on Tuesday July 23 and will take over from outgoing prime minister Theresa May on Wednesday.

He has vowed to take the U.K. out of the European Union (EU) on October 31 and has said he is prepared to accept a so-called "no-deal Brexit" if a withdrawal agreement cannot be agreed with the EU by that time. 

Just days ago, the U.K.'s spending watchdog, The Office for Budget Responsibility, warned that a no-deal Brexit could push the country's economy into recession, although Johnson has disputed the financial impact it would have.

Following Johnson's appointment, the EU Commission's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted that he was looking forward with the new prime minister "to facilitate the ratification of the withdrawal agreement and achieve an orderly Brexit."   

The question of how orderly that agreement will be has major ramifications for virtually every business in the U.K., not least the music business, which could be hit by touring restrictions and sales tariffs when trading with Europe. 

Speaking at the Musicians' Union conference in Brighton just moments after Johnson was confirmed as the new Tory leader, UK Music CEO Michael Dugher told the incoming PM it was vital that touring artists remain able to move freely across borders "without the kind of cost and bureaucracy that, frankly, could make playing across Europe simply not viable."

Referring to the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, Dugher told Johnson "you may be happy to leap off the edge of a cliff, but please, please don't throw the British music industry over there with you."

He also outlined several areas where the British government needed to urgently act to protect an industry that brings £4.5 billion ($5.5 billion) a year to the U.K. economy, according to UK Music figures. They include reversing the decline of music in state education and a call for business rate tax breaks to be extended to small grassroots music venues, as well as greater diversity across the creative industries. 

On the subject of the European Union’s copyright directive, Dugher said the government must stand up to big tech giants like Google "who continue to make billions of dollars by exploiting the content made by others without paying fair rewards to music creators."

"Yet we know that with a 'no-deal' Brexit and without a transitional phase or the withdrawal agreement, implementation of the Copyright Directive won't happen," Dugher (himself a former Labour MP) warned the audience.

With a no-deal Brexit no longer off the table (unlike when Theresa May was in power), the UK Music boss called on the government to set out an "urgent roadmap" detailing how it will implement the copyright directive in the event that a deal can't be reached with the EU. 

Also commenting on Johnson's ascension was BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor, who said he was looking forward to working with the new prime minister.  

"The music industry is one of the U.K.'s great economic successes and part of how Britain promotes itself to the world," said Taylor. 

"We hope to work with the new Government to strengthen the foundations of our thriving national music culture," he added, "and support it to reach even greater international success in the streaming era."


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