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Musicians' Union backs EU stay

Daniel Gumble
Musicians' Union backs EU stay

In its latest MI Pro column, the Musicians’ Union outlines the benefits of staying in the EU…

With the EU referendum coming up fast, the Musicians’ Union (MU) recently reaffirmed its support for remaining in the EU. Being part of the EU has long been the MU position because of the overwhelming benefits for musicians.

Open borders have made touring both easier and less expensive for British musicians. EU health and safety legislation has meant that the job of being a musician has become safer and workers’ rights legislation in general has improved the working life of musicians in the UK. The Working Time Directive, for instance, redefined the definition of a worker for the purposes of working time and meant that for the first time the MU was able to claim holiday pay for part-time instrumental teachers.

Perhaps most importantly, at least three European Copyright Directives have been responsible for protecting the intellectual property rights of musicians and ensuring that they receive remuneration for the use of their work. Whilst the copyright regime in this country is far from perfect and further adjustments are urgently needed, the MU is confident that the situation for musicians would be far worse were it not for the EU Directives.
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The effect that a vote for Brexit would have on musicians in Britain is not entirely clear and would depend on the terms negotiated. We could, however, expect touring to become more difficult and potentially see British musicians having to apply for visas in order to travel within Europe. Given the cost and difficulty many musicians face in obtaining visas for work in countries such as the U.S, this would be very unwelcome.

It is also important to remember that much of the lobbying that the MU and other music organisations are involved in happens on a Europe-wide basis. A good example of this is the issue of musicians taking their instruments abroad with them. Many musicians have experienced real problems with taking larger instruments onto planes due to inconsistent policies between airlines. Some will allow them in overhead lockers whilst others insist they are checked, and some will ask you to book an extra seat. These rules not only change from airline to airline, but they also sometimes change depending on the staff at the check in desk on the day.

The MU and FIM (International Federation of Musicians) have lobbied together on this issue for a number of years and a fair and uniform policy is closer than ever. It is only by working at a European and international level that we can successfully tackle this issue, as the problem is much broader than just UK airlines. Any measures would therefore have to be brought in on a European level at least in order to have any effect.

There are numerous other issues, not least copyright, where successes for musicians have come about only as a result of Europe wide campaigns and legislation.

It is also very possible that European legislation which has protected musicians in the areas of copyright, health and safety and workers’ rights would be watered down or removed entirely if Britain were to leave the EU.

For this reason, the MU is clear: musicians should vote to remain.

In a recent MI Pro poll, the industry appeared split on the subject. Read the findings here

Tags: musicians' union , mu , eu , Opinion , brexit

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