For some, freedom of movement might just be jargon. For musician ANNEKE SCOTT it is a way of life. But for how much longer?
I am a classical musician and love my job. Based in London, I work throughout Europe for many different ensembles, alongside musicians from every corner of the continent. We learn from one another, collaborate on ideas and perform together.
All this is made possible by my right to work freely in the EU. Specifically, it is my EU member state passport (British) and A1 certificate (which demonstrates that I’m paying national insurance contributions in a member state) which allows me to travel everywhere in the EU and makes me employable in all of its countries.
All of this freedom, on which my whole life as an artist – and that of many others – rests, is now in jeopardy as a result of Brexit. If we end up with a system requiring us to organise permits for all our European colleagues performing with us in the UK, and similar visas for all us British musicians travelling to Europe to work, then would such collaborations happen in the future?
There is no clear sign that this risk is understood by those negotiating Brexit, so I have decided to make my voice heard. Since the beginning of the year, I have been sending several hundred postcards to MPs from my travels all over Europe, in order to help demonstrate the implications of an end to freedom of movement for many musicians like me.
I hope that the steady arrival of these cards into the MPs’ mailbags helps to give them a tangible impression of the scope of musicians’ working lives and the devastating impact that the loss of freedom of movement would have on us.
For some, freedom of movement might seem an abstract piece of jargon, something to be negotiated with, abandoned, compromised or fudged. But for me – and many others – it is a way of life and a way to make a living. At the moment, it is very hard to see how a career such as mine will function, after Brexit.
Geography, and restrictions on freedom of movement and rights to work, mean that it is unlikely that we will be able to replace work in the EU with work outside the EU on a like for like basis.
Work visas are costly, time-consuming and add a great deal of stress to working lives – they are subject to conditions, rarely guaranteed, and often processed at the last minute, meaning that we risk being unable to work at all.
I doubt I would have the career I currently enjoy, if I had not been able, in its early stages, to pick up bits and pieces of freelance work throughout Europe.
But this ability to travel, share skills, broaden horizons and perform elsewhere (and allow others to perform here) is not just a personal benefit for people like me, it is also vital for the culture of our country and, indeed, that of the rest of Europe.
I am not certain that my postcards alone are going to do the job, so thankfully the Musicians’ Union is also campaigning to get MPs to sign a pledge to help protect our rights to work freely post-Brexit. It is also urging travelling musicians to tweet about their experiences, using the hashtag #WorkingInTheEU.
But we also need to help of others. So please do take the trouble to also sign the Musicians’ Union petition on this issue. We need to hear from musicians and music lovers more than ever right now.
The petition can be found at change.org/p/prime-minister-theresa-may-mp-support-free-movement-for-musicians-post-brexit