Joe Seaton, the DJ and producer better known as Call Super, examines the election's consequences for club culture, and explains how to get involved.
Brexit's consequences will vary depending on the deal that is eventually agreed upon, and the different political parties are taking different approaches to the negotiations. But it's almost impossible to expect any positive outcomes for the music community, since the two core objectives of Brexit—less European interference in UK affairs and greater economic engagement with countries beyond the EU—react to issues that never created problems for our scene. Quite the opposite: the EU has allowed our community within Europe to become very fluid, with festivals, promoters, labels and clubbers building relationships across old borders and enjoying experiences around the continent.
We don't yet know what will be agreed upon in relation to UK artists performing in Europe (and vice versa), but if freedom of movement is curtailed, then it will require a visa of some form. The cost of a visa would usually be picked up by the club, who would recoup it in ticket prices. Larger artists may be able to apply for long-term visas at their own cost, as they do to perform in the United States. Smaller promoters who book emerging talent will thus find it riskier to bring European DJs to the UK, and newer British artists would probably be offered fewer opportunities to perform on the continent. Those new British artists will not have those opportunities replaced by offers from the US, Russia or anywhere else because no continent has a music scene to rival Europe's.
The single market is made up of treaties and agreements that allow Europeans and their businesses to work wherever they like on the continent without impediment. For example, VAT, or value-added tax, is offset in such a way that it usually need not be charged between artists and promoters. Withholding tax, which is often deducted by the local tax authorities from an artist's fee, is able to be claimed back against the artist's income tax relatively simply in their home country (so the artist doesn't get taxed twice). Social security taxes in foreign countries can generally be waived if the artist can demonstrate that they pay the equivalent tax in their own country. Nobody knows exactly how all this will change after Brexit, but it's safe to say that the tax simplification laws currently in place will become more complicated and could make the life of a UK musician touring in Europe considerably more difficult, both in terms of compliance and possibly in terms of tax rates, meaning more paperwork and possibly lost income.
Lost income for artists may end up being flipped over to mean increased costs for promoters, which in turn makes it harder for promoters to take risks. This has the effect of more lineups looking the same—safer artists are known to sell tickets, and it's usually the bigger (and richer) artists that can absorb visa costs and get around any barriers that emerge.
Record stores and labels who need the cheapest shipping and manufacturing costs to survive all rely on the single market, in which there are no import or export taxes (known as tariffs) or other impediments to shipping sleeves and records between the UK and the EU. If manufacturing, shipping and import/export costs increase for UK labels, distributors and stores, then the increase in the price of a record would be substantial, both for consumers in the UK and for EU consumers buying records manufactured in or distributed from the UK.
UK Music, the organisation who represents the industry, is going to be arguing for small exemptions in these areas. But these exemptions only stand a chance if a generous trade deal is agreed upon—sometimes this is referred to as a "soft" Brexit. The alternative—minimum agreement and, at worst, the UK walking away without any agreement—is known as a "hard" Brexit. So, which parties are arguing for which kind of Brexit?
With the Conservatives currently ahead in the polls by a substantial margin, the election is primarily about how much they will have to listen to and engage with the other parties in Parliament during and after the negotiations. By winning a huge majority they will be constrained only by the voices who disagree within their party. If they win by a smaller majority, it will allow other parties to team up with Conservative "rebels" and act as a moderate influence on any agreement with Europe.
The hardline Conservatives, with whom Theresa May, the Prime Minister, is currently aligned, would like to prevent free movement and to leave the single market. But they also want favourable treatment around certain industries, such as the car industry and the financial sector. Without that, some Conservatives are arguing that the UK should walk away from any deal—essentially the hardest possible Brexit.
The Labour Party are arguing that we should be flexible when it comes to freedom of movement and the single market. Some in the party are arguing for a vote to be held on the final deal that emerges, and Jeremy Corbyn, the party's leader, has not ruled out this option. The assurances they have made around the rights of EU citizens to stay in the UK indicate they would like a softer Brexit, one more open to a preferential trading relationship between Europe and the UK.
Campaigning for a vote on the final deal is at the heart of the current pledges made by the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems believe that freedom of movement and all the current tax agreements should be preserved, as these lead to increased prosperity and opportunities. Along with the Green Party (and the Scottish National Party), they can be considered the anti-Brexit party.
Scottish residents can vote for the SNP, who stand both for Scottish independence and European membership. They have promised to hold a vote on membership of the UK, if a tough deal is worked out with Europe.
Widely represented on the right wing of the Conservative party, UKIP would like to completely end free movement. They are currently proposing a "one in, one out" approach to immigration that would apply to Europe as well as the rest of the world. Europe's response to such a policy would likely place strict limits on the ability to travel and work within the EU for British citizens.
What should you do if you'd like to get involved? The first, and easiest step, is to register and vote. It's a simple process that can be done here and then completed on June 8th at your nearest polling station. The deadline is soon—May 22nd—but don't worry, it takes less than five minutes and all you need is your National Insurance number. You need to be 18 on June 8th, but you can apply now if you're 17 and your birthday is before then.
The second step, and this is just as important as voting, is to have these conversations with your friends and family. Many people have emotional reasons for wanting to remain in or leave the EU, which can make it hard to look at the decision's concrete impact on our lives. This article has attempted to connect some of the changes that may be coming to the culture we love. If you are concerned about these issues, then talk to people about your concerns and see if they understand them.
If you want to actively campaign for a "soft" Brexit, or believe that another vote should be held on the eventual deal, then you can get involved via Open Britain. They list the most important MPs to either vote out, or vote in, and you can see who is nearest to you and go and lend a hand raising awareness for their campaign.