With the shock result in the referendum on Great Britain exiting the European Union – which, however, has not yet translated into immediate government action on the issue – UK publishers and writers are already starting to react.
As quoted in The Bookseller, Tim Godfrey, UK Booksellers Association CEO, said: “With so much uncertainty prevalent, what the Government has to do is to introduce as much ‘Certainty’ as possible for consumers and business. We need to have clarity on how the disengagement process will work? And what will be the ‘shape’ of our future relationship with the EU?” Unfortunately, as incumbent UK prime minister David Cameron (photo) has just announced that he will step down, that clarity will be in short supply.
It’s important also to note what Brexit is not. This is not an immediate government decision to leave the European Union: the UK government is not even legally obliged to acknowledge the result. There is no definite clarity on whether Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty will even be invoked. Also quoted in The Bookseller, Penguin Random House UK CEO Tom Weldon pointed out that “there is a two-year minimum period of negotiation before Britain will actually leave and during this time our country will still have to abide by EU law.”
He also said, though, that “this is uncharted territory and no-one knows what the full impact of this change will be.” The question of the UK’s continued participation in the EU VAT regime, and how this impacts areas such as VAT on e-books, is likely to remain open for years, while continuing to affect publishers and booksellers in the short term.
The political fallout from the referendum is liable to hit other areas far sooner. An imminent government reshuffle is expected to install extremely conservative figures before any election. This will probably lead to further cuts in UK library funding. The UK’s body for library professionals, CILIP, has stated: “We will be engaging with the UK Government to ensure that our profession, is accounted for during this transitional process and that our needs and the needs of our users are recognised and protected. In the short-term, our first priority will be to review the impact of this referendum on people working in the information professions in the UK and develop any necessary actions to support them.”
UK and other authors were not pleased. Robert Harris tweeted that he was: “Watching PM resign, Governor of Bank of England appealing for calm… Feel as if I’m living in a bad dystopian political thriller.” J.K. Rowling also tweeted a conclusion that some, including me, may feel less unhappy about. “Scotland will seek independence now. Cameron’s legacy will be breaking up two unions. Neither needed to happen.” An independent Scottish publishing industry and literary establishment once again is in the cards as a real possibility. Similarly, with some Northern Irish politicians pushing for a referendum on joining the Republic of Ireland, the reunification of Ireland, and of Irish book and literary culture, also could happen.
Philip Pullman tweeted a response that could stand as commentary on the whole debacle: “We had a headache, so we shot our foot off. Now we can’t walk, and we still have the headache.”
Related: Keep calm and expect change, by Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller, the Publishers Weekly of the U.K. Also, TeleRead Editor Chris Meadows will be offering an American perspective here later today or tomorrow. Also see a Variety article—many of the observations there about Brexit’s effect on movies might also apply to books.
Given how easily book cross the borders of democracies, Brexit won’t make much difference other than the up and downs of prices due to currency exchanges. British books will be cheaper here for a time. American books will be more expensive in the UK.
The big winners will be working class Brits, who won’t see their jobs taken by those from other EU countries. You quoted from one group of losers, rich authors like Rowlings who’ll have to pay more for servants, nannies and the like. To quote one commentary:
“But it is notable that the election was won not on the playing fields of Eton or in the leafy gardens of England’s Home Counties, but in the industrial Northeast and the blue-collar Midlands. Indeed, as the Mirror and others have observed, Leave’s margin was provided not by a surfeit of conservatives, but by working-class social democrats who traditionally vote Labour but whose concerns are increasingly out of sync with the rest of their party.”
Labor meaning blue-collar workers wants jobs. Labor meaning the Labor party politicians wants voters and doesn’t care where they come from. That’s the essence of this vote.
The big name authors, like all the “luvvies” (writers, film-makers, artists and actors to non-UK citizens!) wanted overwhelmingly to remain within the EU.
I never understand their stance. They would have us believe they are creative, artistic, somehow set apart from the common herd yet overwhelmingly ally themselves to left-wing political movements and parties whose entire raison d’être is social control, conformity and compliance.
Despite what J/K/ Rowling and others claim, Britain now has a fantastic opportunity for its people to reclaim Parliamentary democracy and control. The world will not stop turning and it is ridiculous to suppose that Europe will turn its back on us. Trade will continue. People will continue to do business with each and to visit each other’s countries. The nature of our political relationship will change but that change is both necessary and welcome for all sorts of democratic and even economic reasons.
Artists of all people should embrace change and challenge. Change is not just about unsettling the old order but also about presenting new opportunities which we did not have before. I find it depressing that most of them want to cede control of their lives to others who not only have no interest in the common people but who largely hold them in contempt.
Today, the sun is shining after weeks of heavy cloud and thunder. That is a meteorological statement, not a metaphorical one but, you know, we should all run outside and enjoy both the physical and the metaphorical sunshine!
As always, the Wall Street Journal has an excellent article on the inner dynamics of the Brexit dispute:
Here’s a Teleread-ap quote from that article. For that flutist, substitute an American, Australian, Indian, or Canadian writer who (like me) would love live in the UK for a time and to do that would need to be able to legally get a job there.
Even the debate about immigration had an internationalist flavor to it. Any member of any EU state has had the right to live and work in Britain; any American, Indian or Australian needs to apply through a painstaking process. Mr. Cameron’s goal is to bring net immigration to below 100,000 a year (it was a little over three times that at last count). So the more who arrive from the EU, the more we need to crack down on those from outside the EU. The U.K. government now requires any non-European who wants to settle here to earn an annual salary of at least £35,000 (or about $52,000)—so we would deport, say, a young American flutist but couldn’t exclude a Bulgarian convict who could claim (under EU human-rights rules) that he has family ties in the U.K.
To most Brits, this makes no sense. In a television debate last week, Mr. Cameron was asked if there was “anything fair about an immigration system that prioritizes unskilled workers from within the EU over skilled workers who are coming from outside the EU?” He had no convincing answer.
And this relates to my earlier posting about the economic/class factors and a Labor party that’s for Labor party politicians but not actual laborers. For, as the article notes: ” An astonishing 70% of the skilled working class supported Brexit.”
The economists who warned about the perils of Brexit also assure voters that immigration is a net benefit, its advantages outweighing its losses. Perhaps so, but this overlooks the human factor. Who loses, and who gains? Immigration is great if you’re in the market for a nanny, a plumber or a table at a new restaurant. But to those competing with immigrants for jobs, houses or seats at schools, it looks rather different. And this, perhaps, explains the stark social divide exposed in the Brexit campaign.
My term for those who sneer at those legitimate concerns is Snooties. It aptly sums up their closed-minded and unsympathetic arrogance. And this remark applies the the U.S. as well as the to Europe: “Many British voters felt a similar frustration on security issues, where the EU’s leaders have for decades now displayed a toxic combination of hunger for power and incompetence at wielding it.”
We’ve had that in the U.S. on “security issues” for nearly eight years. The Obama administration FBI gets warned about a radical Islamist, interviews him multiple times, does nothing, and he kills dozens of people in Florida. What’s the administration response to its failure? Incompetence and arrogance. Instead of reforming FBI investigations to make them more effective, it wants to ban the most popular sporting rifle in the country. That’s a “hunger for power” closely linked to “incompetence at wielding it.”
Eight of the ten wealthiest counties in the U.S. are in a beltway around Washington, D.C. That’s how much our federal government is taking from us without delivering security or indeed any other competence, as illustrated by the longest stagnent economy since the Great Depression. We’ve got problems not all that different from the EU. We need our own Brexit.
–Mike Perry, editor of Across Asia on a Bicycle