- 24 Dec 20
"How the deal will affect the music business is surely a matter lost in the fine print."
The EU and the UK have finally agreed a new post-Brexit trade deal, heading off the possibility of a no deal crash-out by the UK on January 1st.
Inevitably, Boris Johnson is claiming the deal as a victory for Britain which will create a “giant free trade zone”. However, the truth is rather less worthy of celebration.
“We have taken back control of laws and our destiny," the UK Prime Minister claimed. "We have taken back control of every jot and tittle of our regulation in a way that is complete and unfettered.”
A look at the fine print of the deal is likely, however, to confirm otherwise. Under the deal – described as “fair and balanced” by the President of the EU, Ursula von der Layen – the UK has accepted a legally enforceable level-playing field.
And so there will be penalties if Britain does diverge in standards from the EU. An independent arbitration process has been agreed, to judge what precise penalties should be applied if either of the co-signatories to the deal deviates from current regulatory standards in a way that undercuts the other.
Meanwhile, the deal confirms the existence of a new trade border down the Irish Sea, separating the territory known as Northern Ireland from England, Scotland and Wales and aligning it with Ireland and the EU. How Unionist MPs will vote on the deal – which has to be ratified by the UK parliament on Wednesday 30 December – remains to be seen.
In that sense, it is being seen by critics as the first step in disuniting the UK. And more may be to follow, with sentiment in Scotland having turned strongly in favour of independence over the past year in particular.
How the deal will affect the music business is surely a matter lost in the fine print. But there is enough already in the public domain to suggest that it will add enormously to the bureaucracy – and the cost – of touring Europe for British artists – and vice versa. The hope is that the common travel area might make that less of an issue for Irish artists. But there is currently no certainty in that regard.
The news of a deal – frequently described as 'thin gruel’ – has not forced a re-evaluation by the British Office of Budget Responsibility, which has forecast that Brexit will reduce GDP in the UK by as much as 4% in the medium term.
One of the biggest downsides of the deal from the perspective of British citizens is that UK nationals will no longer have the freedom to work, study, start a business or live in the EU. A visa will be required for stays that last over 90 days. British exports will also face checks on their origins and on their compliance with EU regulations, slowing down trade drastically. And the deal is also likely to hit inward investment in the UK, as companies choose a country that is within the EU as the base for their activities in this part of the world.
Brexit was always a lose-lose situation. The only question now is who loses most. And in the end, that is almost inevitably going to be the UK.
The Guardian is clear in its assessment of the Boris Johnson deal.
"What can already be said with some certainty is that it prescribes an immediate downgrade for the UK economy,” en editorial on the newspaper’s website says. "That is a function of leaving the single market and customs union, and those choices were baked into the negotiating mandate. Trade volumes will decrease. Supply chains will be disrupted. Jobs will be lost. Those are intrinsic features of the hard Brexit model mandated by Mr Johnson…
"To have avoided the very worst-case scenario is a pitiful kind of achievement,” the editorial continues, further on. "Mr Johnson deserves no credit for dodging a calamity that loomed so close because he drove so eagerly towards it."