On the EU Referendum

After boring the tits off you for six weeks with my computer woes, it’s time to return to politics. I used to be a pretty political blogger, but I’ve stopped giving my two penn’orth on Nevermore simply because I’m tired. I don’t have the fire that I used to, and I don’t have the energy to deal with the nature of internet political discussion: all parties believing they are right and therefore confronting differing opinions by a strategy best described as “share, shame and flame”. However, I’d be a fool not to say something in the run up to the EU referendum.

My perspective is personal. If you never intend to travel and never intend to work abroad, then it’s easy to be a Little Englander. All that will matter to you post-Brexit is the nature of the trade deals done with mainland Europe and others. Farm gate prices will be all that affect you economically. I get it. However, I have chosen to work in a performance industry that, in terms of British economics, is broken.

The British don’t really “do” live music. The venues are being sold for, or closed as a result of, nearby development, but those that remain are getting no fuller. The British public tends to spend their money on names they’ve heard of or bands doing covers of names they’ve heard of. There is precious little money in original music, and in some towns the live scene is focussed on a single style. However in some European countries, venues pay for music. Besides which, the ability to work in European festivals opens up a wider horizon for exposure. And all I have to do to access fair pay for a performance and a European audience that may buy my t-shirts is show my passport to a Frenchman. This would be far harder if I had to fill out reams of paperwork for every country I wished to play in over a summer and pay out money for work permits.

But that doesn’t matter to the Little Englanders. They don’t travel for work and they don’t care about people who do. I had one bloke in a pub call me “selfish” for wanting access to the European labour market. But with an estimated 800,000 British people working in the EU (i.e. earning their whole livelihoods there), not to mention the swathes of pensioners retired to Spain and southern France, who’s really selfish here?

It also has to be remembered that pressure on housing and the NHS are not problems that will magically go away just because we boot the EU migrant workers out. The problems have been created by decades of mismanagement, and in the NHS’s case, real-term budget cuts to a health service we spend less of our GDP on than countries with privatised services. Believe me, if there is no will to fund the NHS properly, none of that alleged 350 million a week is going to be used to make up the shortfall.

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~ by Scary Rob on 21 June, 2016.

3 Responses to “On the EU Referendum”

  1. Could not agree with you more on the EU. We only make things better in life by working together. On the subject of live music, (as I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately) I think that another big issue affecting the ability of live venues to stay open, as well as clubs and pubs, is the rising cost of tuition fees and student loans. I have recently moved back to the city I studied in over a decade ago. The town center was alive at night with students (spending their loans on the nightlife economy) and locals alike. These days, there are still some pubs and venues, but many have closed, especially clubs, and streets are significantly quieter. The only real change that can account for it is the huge hike in tuition fees. I was lucky, (comparatively) when I studied fees had just been introduced but they were capped. Life for students has always been tight, by the end I had a part-time job, but I still had the opportunity to go on nights out and meet people etc. I learned a lot from my degree, but I learned an equally valuable amount from experiences outside the world of academia or full-time work. If I had tuition fees of £9000 a year, plus accommodation then I would have been terrified to waste a single second of study time on any other pursuit. People who are in favor of tuition fees bang on about how you don’t have to pay your loan back until you earn a certain amount, but if we assume that most students are conscientious individuals, worries about being a financial burden to parents, society, and the taxpayer, then most are probably worrying about how to balance a job with studying and are missing out on learning about themselves and the wider world around them. If we saw a successful campaign to abolish tuition fees, (which I would support) or reduced them back to £3000 a year, then I believe we would naturally see a resurgence in live music, live music venues, and nightclubs. When free time is replaced by debt and worry than it is natural that traditional pastime activities like learning an instrument, or getting involved with music are some of the first things to suffer. And when you reduce the social value of cultural activities in proportion to their financial (or time) cost for the working and middle classes it is ultimately a slippery slope in the direction of what we are seeing at the moment: a rejection of intellectuals and experts and a resurgence in the fascist movement. Sadly.

    • It’s not *just* the loss of the student scene that’s killing venues. The big breweries operate not so much as beer sellers than as property barons, and screw their tenant managers into the ground with onerous beer ties and fees. In a so-called health kick, successive governments (and Cameron’s Tories are the first in decades NOT to do this) have hiked taxes on alcohol so much that supermarkets can afford to sell at a low mark-up but the price of a pub pint has to cover overheads and wholesale value, and *then* pay taxes (and taxes come to just under a third of the value of a pub pint). If pub alcohol wasn’t wrapped up in exorbitant wholesale costs and high rates of Duty, more people would drink socially out than antisocially at home. And a music promoter would only have to pay the bands and the sound engineer rather than a rent on a pub’s function room because the extra beer take would cover the costs. The venue economy works in Spain, but it’s clearly impossible over here. And that has to do with pub economics.

      • I agree with you on all of those points. Prices going up at a time when people can least afford to pay them has a massive impact. I guess what I am saying is solidarity between the live music scene and anti-tuition fee campaigners (if successful) could mitigate some of those factors by re-opening a proportion of the market place.

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