Bob Geldof letter warns Theresa May of Brexit danger

Ed Sheeran, Sting and Simon Rattle sign letter about threat to music of leaving EU

Brexit protest: Bob Geldof has organised the open letter to Theresa May. Photograph: Lorne Thomson/Redferns/Getty

Brexit protest: Bob Geldof has organised the open letter to Theresa May. Photograph: Lorne Thomson/Redferns/Getty

 

Bob Geldof has gathered a roll-call of celebrated performers, producers and composers to warn Theresa May, the British prime minister, about the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the British music industry, saying the UK would be placed in a “self-built cultural jail”.

Ed Sheeran, Damon Albarn, Jarvis Cocker and Sting are among the musicians who have signed a letter the Irish singer and activist is circulating that calls Brexit “serious madness” and a threat to “every aspect of the music industry”. Britain’s departure from the European Union jeopardises the “vast voice” of the €5 billion industry, which “dominates” the market.

According to the Observer newspaper, the open letter says: “Imagine Britain without its music. If it’s hard for us, then it’s impossible for the rest of the world. In this one area, if nowhere else, Britain does still rule the waves. The airwaves.

“But Brexit threatens, as it does so much else, this vast voice. This huge global cultural influencer. We are about to make a very serious mistake regarding our giant industry and the vast pool of yet undiscovered genius that lives on this little island.”

I am completely committed to having a democratic public vote to prevent the whole Brexit thing screwing us for the future

The letter, whose other signatories include Brian Eno, John Eliot Gardiner, Bobby Gillespie, Howard Goodall, Johnny Marr, Nick Mason, Alan McGee, Rita Ora, William Orbit, Simon Rattle, Ed Sheeran, Paul Simon, Neil Tennant and Roger Taylor, points out that everything from touring and royalties to copyright laws could be damaged and says the UK should stay inside the EU to lead its overhaul. “We must reform and restructure the EU. When Europe is in a mess, the Brits get stuck in. They don’t withdraw, they double down.”

The Observer reported the letter was circulated with the subject “towards a 2nd vote”. Geldof, who has been a prominent opponent of the UK plan to leave the EU, told the newspaper he backs a second Brexit referendum. “I am completely committed to having a democratic public vote to prevent the whole Brexit thing screwing us for the future.”

Brexit protest: Bob Geldof with remain campaigners on the River Thames in London as their boat passes that of Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, in the final days of campaigning before the referendum in 2016. Photograph: Jeff Spicer/Getty
Brexit protest: Bob Geldof with remain campaigners on the River Thames in London as their boat passes that of Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, just before the referendum in 2016. Photograph: Jeff Spicer/Getty

The open letter

“To Theresa May:

“Imagine Britain without its music. If it’s hard for us, then it’s impossible for the rest of the world. In this one area, if nowhere else, Britain does still rule the waves. The airwaves. The cyberwaves. The soundwaves. It is of us. It is our culture.

“We dominate the market and our bands, singers, musicians, writers, producers and engineers work all over Europe and the world. In turn, Europe and the world come to us. Why? Because we are brilliant at it. No one quite knows why this should be but everyone understands it to be so. The sound and the words seem universal. It reaches out, all inclusive, and embraces anyone and everyone. And that truly is what Britain IS! That is proper Global Britain.

“But Brexit threatens, as it does so much else, this vast voice. This huge global cultural influencer. We are about to make a very serious mistake regarding our giant industry and the vast pool of yet undiscovered genius that lives on this little island.

“Why are we closing down these possibilities for ourselves and for those as yet unknown to us? Brexit will impact every aspect of the music industry. From touring, sales, copyright legislation, to royalty collation. Indeed it already has. As a result of the referendum vote, the fall in the pound has meant hugely increased equipment costs, studio hire, and touring costs all now materially higher than before – and not forgetting that squeezed household incomes means less money to go to clubs and buy tracks, T-shirts, gigs and generate the vast income necessary to keep the up and comers on the road and musically viable.

It is the much-mocked freedom of movement that so effortlessly allows our troubadours, our cultural warriors, to speak of us to a world that cannot get enough of them

“A massive 60 per cent of all royalty revenue paid to the UK comes from within the EU. And at home, any increase in import duty will mean that anything that comes to us from outside will cost significantly more. We have decided to put ourselves inside a self-built cultural jail! The very opposite of wall-destroying, prejudice-denying, ideas-generating that is the very essence of contemporary music. And yet it is the much-mocked freedom of movement that so effortlessly allows our troubadours, our cultural warriors, to wander Europe and speak of us to a world that cannot get enough of [them], and which generates countless billions for our threatened institutions.

“This is all a serious madness. We must take back our future.We must reform and restructure the EU. When Europe is in a mess, the Brits get stuck in. They don’t withdraw, they double down. They get in close and messy. Make Europe the continent that we and the people of Europe want. Not the one dreamt up in another time by the ideologues, or by the undemocratic fiat of mediocre politicians or the dull exhortations of a pallid bureaucracy. A new one. A different one. An exciting one. A rock’n’roll one.

“Let’s rock Europe and let’s save our music, our musicians, our music jobs and our songs. Let’s save our voice.

“Yours, Bob Geldof and friends.” – Agencies