Melvyn Bragg: Brexit will wreck British arts

Melvyn Bragg: Brexit will wreck British arts


norman lebrecht

October 17, 2018

From Melvyn’s fact-packed speech to the House of Lords:


Today our musicians travel freely; connections are essential in the global creative world. Post Brexit there will be no guarantee of free movement across Europe. In 2016, our orchestras made 96 visits to 26 different EU countries, according to the Association of British Orchestras – impossible to imagine after Brexit.

The post-Brexit visa system will result in a situation that has been graphically described in a well-researched article by the composer Howard Goodall. His work takes him all over Europe at a day’s notice by means of a ticket from Heathrow. This will now take him weeks to organise, and that will deter many of those in this country from going to Europe by reason of expense. The reverse is also true. Musicians from the EU play a crucial role in the day-to-day make-up of UK orchestras and are often called on at a couple of weeks’ notice, which the new system will make impossible. Between 20 per cent and 25 per cent of musicians in some orchestras are from other countries in the EU. There are around 14,000 EU citizens in the UK music industry. Given the restrictions that will be put in place, the future of that proportion looks bleak, and import duties will have to be paid on every instrument. Imagine that, with the LSO going one way and the Berlin Philharmonic going another.

This is not just about great orchestras and conductors. School jazz bands and youth orchestras will be subject to restrictions and expense. Young musicians from Britain will no longer be able to participate in EU-wide schemes such as the European Youth Orchestra, which is moving from the UK to Italy as a result of Brexit. That is a great shame for us and for them. Horace Trubridge of the Musicians’ Union has described the way that musicians hop regularly between Europe and Britain and said: “If every musician has to get a visa and carnet for every country they visit, it would make any work in Europe impossible to schedule … My members are already moving to Europe because they worry about their future work.”

We are not just talking about classical music. Peter Gabriel has expressed his alarm after a number of international artists were unable to perform at the Womad world music festival after visa issues. Gabriel, who founded Womad, said: “It is alarming that our UK festival would now have real problems bringing artists into this country … [many of whom] no longer want to come to the UK because of the difficulty, cost and delays with visas, along with the new fear that they will not be welcomed.”

This year marks the first time that artists declined invitations to perform at Womad….

Read on here.



  • Bart says:

    No, speculation-packed.
    Bragg can’t possibly know what kind of extra travel formalities, if any, may be introduced in the future.

    • Anon says:

      Dont blame Melvyn Bragg for the click bait in the introduction. If you follow the links through to the Howard Goodall article you will see some of the problems he has faced in working in the US, our new best friend – maybe. If that is a sign of what things will be like in the future then the prospects are grim.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    Much as I admire Melvyn Bragg I would not call this “fact-packed” Perhaps presumption and prejudice-packed? Just this week-end I was in Edinburgh and heard the Russian State Symphony Orchestra. Maybe not one of the world’s premier orchestra but more than competent in Russian music. and about top do a UK tour. Despite being from a country with which we do not have very friendly relations they seem to have got visas and as far I know-someone can correct me- they were not charged import duty on their instruments. Putting the worst possible light on everything is just as unpersuasive as the opposite.

    • V.Lind says:

      Probably planned ages in advance and well-managed re visas, etc. But re-watching that Covent Garden series The House recently, the first episode had the soprano for Carmen go down with throat problems, and Deniece Graves hustled in from Paris on just hours’ notice — not enough time to do more than glance at the conductor’s score and the staging notes and she was practically being sewn into her costume as she prepared to go on.

      Could that happen under Brexit or would the show have to be cancelled? Sure, there would be a cover, but the ROH clearly wanted to present a name singer.

  • Bruce says:

    “You can’t predict the future — only I can predict the future.”


  • Mark london says:

    Bragg dressing up ill-informed opinion as facts and sounding ridiculous, as many musicians have commented , leaving the EU will be great news for musicians and many other professions within Europe !