'No bargaining chip'

5 December 2018

Authors Linda Grant, Joanna Trollope and Joanne Harris have called on government and politicians to ensure that the UK’s reputation as world leaders in culture and creativity is preserved after Brexit. The writers are backing calls from the Society of Authors to protect free movement, copyright and trade, and to ensure that the sector is not used as a bargaining chip in future negotiations.

UK writers and other creative professionals have an unparalleled impact on our cultural life at home and our influence abroad. They play a pivotal role in the success of the creative industries, which generate over £100bn a year for the UK economy and have considerable cultural influence both here and overseas.

It is vital that Brexit does not destabilise this success, and the UK Government must ensure that the national policy framework is favourable towards writers and other creative practitioners. The Society of Authors’ Brexit briefing, 'No Bargaining Chip', sets out our key areas of concern, and our key demands of government and policy-makers to maintain the success of our cultural sector after we leave the European Union. These relate to areas such as copyright, free movement, access to funding, trade and exhaustion of intellectual property rights.

The Society of Authors welcomes some of the proposals contained within the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration on the future framework between the UK and the EU, particularly around customs and intellectual property. However, most of our central concerns relate to issues that will only be addressed in future negotiations with the EU or in domestic legislation.

Linda Grant, speaking on the importance of free movement for the cultural sector, said:

“The free movement of ideas and of individuals are essential for the creative life. We need to travel for research and to reach new audiences. The cultural sector in the UK benefits similarly from our ability to attract European writers. We need to preserve our close ties with Europe, and scrapping free movement for workers in the cultural sector will cause huge damage to the industry.”

Joanne Harris, speaking on the importance of trade with the EU, said:

“The British are world leaders when it comes to creativity. And the EU is the publishing industry's most important market for physical books, currently accounting for 36 percent of all our book exports. But we can't afford to be complacent. We can't just assume that our creative industries will have the same importance if we lose our easy access to European markets. We need to be able to trade easily with Europe and the rest of the world. We need customs arrangements in place that allow us to move goods swiftly and efficiently. Otherwise we risk becoming increasingly marginalized, with disastrous results for the publishing industry, and the creative arts as a whole.”

Joanna Trollope, speaking on the importance of copyright and exhaustion of rights, said:

“In the UK, there is currently one of the highest standards in the world on creative copyright. It is crucial that this is maintained after Brexit, and not diluted as part of future trade deals or used as some kind of bargaining chip. We need to enshrine our own gold standards, as well as obliging publishers to provide authors with accounting information, into UK law well before we leave. We also need the government to protect in law the UK position on the exhaustion of rights. Failure to do this could fatally undermine the whole UK publishing industry.”



For further information please contact Tim Gallagher – tgallagher@societyofauthors.org


The Society of Authors is the UK trade union for more than 10,500 writers, scriptwriters, illustrators and literary translators, at all stages of their careers. We’ve been advising individuals and speaking out for the profession since 1884.


Geoff Garvey (12/01/2019 11:59)
" I sent this letter to the editor of The Author, James McConnachie, back in October of last year for publication in the Winter edition of the Author. For reasons I understand (if not entirely agreeing with) he declined to publish it on the letters page. However, as I believe that Brexit could have possibly devastating implications for the future of the publishing industry (including authors) as well as the economy as whole I have posted it here.

Dear Editor,

The SoA's Annual Report and Accounts leaflet opens with the statement that "Brexit dominated the headlines throughout 2017 and remains a concern for SoA members, particularly with lingering uncertainty over the UK's future relationship with the EU and the benefits we currently derive from our membership."

I agree that this is one of the most important issues to come before the nation in the last fifty years. Indeed The Economist has described Brexit as as the British government's most appalling blunder since Suez and added "that the nation has not cut such a pathetic figure on the global stage since that foreign policy catastrophe."

However, what concerns me is the lack of any sense of this impending Armageddon in the pages of the Author. Surely such a major crisis affecting literature and the arts generally should have featured much more often in the pages of the SoA's house magazine over the past two years since the triggering of Article 50? I cannot recall a single Brexit-related article and certainly nothing of a campaigning nature. Indeed, there is surely an argument for devoting a whole issue to Brexit. The implications for authors regarding such things as copyright law and how UK publishers and agents view the future post-Brexit (whether it be hard, fluffy soft or not at all) would I'm sure be of interest to all the society's members. Including perhaps an article from an anti-Brexit author such as Ian McEwan with – if balance must be maintained – someone making the opposing case.

Over recent days I have read that the music industry (both popular and classical) is gripped by the fear that Brexit will shatter its success and cause irreparable damage to the UK’s cultural influence and output. A letter to the prime minister organised by Bob Geldof has been signed by scores of leading names including Brian Eno and, on the classical side, Simon Rattle. The intention is to bring home to the government "the serious mistake regarding our giant industry" and predicts that "the vast voice and reach of British music will be silenced in the self-built cultural jail" that is Brexit. The letter's signatories urge Theresa May to end this "serious madness". Surely we on the literary side of the cultural spectrum should also be adopting a campaigning stance?

Best wishes,

Geoff Garvey"
Geoff Garvey (27/12/2018 12:46)
" I find Michael Wood's comment utterly bizarre and sounds like the sort of guff appearing daily in the D Mail and D Telegraph. If you pause to think about it rather than chanting the slogans that appear in UKIP pamphlets you would realise that the "evil empire" of the EU is a damn sight more democratic than democratic deficit UK. As the only advanced western nation without a written constitution and the nation with the most undemocratic voting system in Europe (FPTP) I think we should pause before citing the UK as a paragon of democratic virtue. As the only "democratic" country in Europe with a non-elected second chamber as part of its parliament and a head of state who is also not elected by anyone, I think it ill behoves the UK to pull rank on the EU for a lack of democratic credentials.

May I also mention that there was a glaring lack of democracy in the June 2016 referendum in which up to 1 million UK citizens (living in Europe for over 15 years) were denied a vote (after being promised it in the Tory 2010 manifesto). These people were and are directly affected by the outcome of that vote. Add to that that both Leave organisations broke electoral laws for which they were found guilty and fined. More than sufficient reason methinks to hold a re-run of that poll."
Michael Wood (14/12/2018 03:39)
" "The Society of Authors is the UK trade union for more than 10,500 writers." It is not a political party. I agree with Edward Chaney that the EU brings no particular benefits and quite a few complications. Linda Grant and Joanne Harris may not approve of democracy that is their affair. I object to the Society being used to front a political campaign. The country voted to leave the EU before it becomes a state with its own army. Certainly one can hope that sensible arrangements can be made in respect of all trade and property rights. That applies to any existing or potential partner. The world is a big place and contrary to the little Europeans, most of its inhabitants do not live in a small corner of Eurasia. Time to be bold and seize the opportunities offered by rejoining the world."
Edward Chaney (14/12/2018 03:02)
" If it's supposed to be an advantage to be in the EU as a published author i've yet to experience it... I have enormous difficulties in extracting my royalties from both my French and Italian publisher; filling in endless (annual) forms 'double taxation' forms for them and then obtaining proofs of paying tax here from HMRC etc... After all this I end up paying a reduced tax which I then declare on my UK tax form in the hope they knock the appropriate amount off my UK tax. My American royalties, on the other hand, are paid direct into my bank; I declare them at the end of the year and one simple deduction is made..."
Richard Walker (14/12/2018 02:18)
" Brexit - if it happens - will bring no benefits only problems. The government is currently in disarray. Let's take advantage of that by pressurising our MPs to either go for a second referendum or, more simply, revoke Article 50."
Brian John (06/12/2018 05:24)
" I don't like the rather defeatist tone of any of this. It all assumes that Brexit is a done deal. It is not -- that is increasingly apparent! So there is no reason why SoA should not say "if Brexit happens" rather than "when Brexit happens." If the view of SoA is that Brexit is an appalling idea, it should still be campaigning to try and stop it."

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