Following the UK Government’s newly published post-Brexit immigration plans, Access has heard from the crewing industry and UK Music, both of whom warn that the new proposals will negatively impact European musicians looking to perform or work here.

The Conservative Government plans to restrict and reduce immigration into the UK, arguing that the proposals are only opposed by those worried about losing their supply of cheap foreign labour, when they should instead employ and train British workers.

Crewsaders MD Jeremy Berryman told Access that he wanted to highlight the company’s preparation for such eventualities.

“The announcement of the Government’s post-Brexit immigration plans is news that we have been preempting for some time. In light of Brexit and the pre-election conservative manifesto pledge to introduce a ‘points-based’ immigration system, most SME’s who require a workforce of whom the government would now class as ‘low skilled’ under the new points system, will undoubtedly be affected.

“With this said, as of the start of 2020 Crewsaders rates of pay were aligned against the London Living Wage, irrespective of whether our crew live in London or not. In addition, our rate of inflation for supply has steadily increased over the past year (having not increased our rates at all for a couple of years prior) to offset the inevitable impact that this will have on the supplier side of the industry.

The company is working closely with guidelines dictating changes to the IR35 rules, stipulating that all medium and large private sector businesses which engage individuals through a personal service company (PSC), will be responsible for determining if the individual should be treated as a deemed employee for tax purposes.

“Our investment into local recruitment was increased in 2019 and will continue to do so through local employment partnerships and we have exciting plans on the horizon to further our recruitment prospects via colleges, clubs and Local Authorities. As a Kiwi founded company with my own heritage stemming from New Zealand, we have strong relationships with Kiwi based recruitment streams. We are supporters of the CANZUK petition [promoting free movement between Australia, Canada, New Zealand] and are still hoping that a deal can be made to allow flexibility of free movement against the current constraints.
“Crewsaders are not the most cost effective crewing company in the market, but our costs have always reflected fair and consistent rates of pay and an unparalleled quality of service. Should our rates need to increase further we will consider this transition alongside the wider marketplace to minimise the overall impact on cost, wherever possible. Luckily we have been talking to our client base over the past couple of years to understand the current economic climate across all aspects of events and have been proactively strategising ways to keep our recruitment levels and supply costs buoyant, relevant and competitive.”

There are also fears from the music industry that the new rules will have on the ability for musicians to tour. Acting chief of UK Music, Tom Kiehl, said: “New plans confirm that from 2021 EU musicians coming to the UK for concerts and festivals will be treated in the same way as those from the rest of the world. This will drag some agents and promoters into the immigration system for the first time and increases the possibility that [EU] member states [will] introduce new bureaucratic hoops for UK musicians to jump through when seeking to perform across the European Union”.

On the potential impact beyond tours and festivals, Kiehl added: “It’s welcome [that] the government has reduced its salary cap, yet these proposals will still not work for many in the EU who want to work in the UK music industry over a longer period of time, given musicians’ average earnings are £23k and a reliance in the [UK government’s new] points-based [immigration] system on the need for elite academic qualifications”.

Meanwhile, Ministers have talked about there being some flexibility for certain categories of workers such as nurses, and the music industry will continue to lobby for musicians to be another such category.

It is expected that there will be u-turns on hardline policies before Brexit comes into effect in 2021.