Brexit Broadcasting: May Day, May Day!

Theresa May has delivered her clarification speech setting out what she wants from Europe in Brexit negotiations. Of course, ‘clarification’ is a relative term. Compared to the oratory of obfuscation that she has made her trademark, it was relatively clear. But it still amounted to a fairly vague wish list, or, as Brussels might say, a list of cherries.

The reason May has kept it vague is that any hint of clarity or real decision making will inflame one side or the other of her irreconcilable party. But at least she did step away from the intelligence insulting fantasy that the UK can leave the EU, and the (a…?) customs union and endure no economic consequences at all. Hallelujah.

The dishonesty of both sides of the Brexit campaign: £350 million bonus for the NHS versus instant economic Armageddon, has been continued into the real world of having to deal with the referendum decision. The idea of taking back control in a globalised interconnected world may seem quaint, but it is at least an honest ideology that many – often for different reasons – hold dear. Presumably they hold it dearer than the optimum economic outcome and, again, that’s a respectable position: if you hold sovereignty more valuable than avoiding a longish, deepish rut in the UK economy, fair enough. The damage will be substantial but of an order lower than that handed out by the banking crisis – and we survived that.

What isn’t acceptable is to pretend (even in your own head) that departure will be economically consequence -free – let alone advantageous. One can only hope it is dissembling on the part of the likes of Liam Fox, our international trade secretary, rather than real belief as this would betray a naivety and stupidity of unimagined dimensions.

One of the few sectors to have actually learned anything definite about their fate was broadcasting. And none of it good. May confirmed we will be out of Digital Single Market but she hopes really good alternate arrangements can be made so the UK can continue to be a creative hub – or, indeed, not become a hollowed-out husk. As the mercifully forgotten Sarah Palin used to say: ‘How’s that hopey changey thing going for you?’

There will be no ‘passporting’ of broadcast licensing. That means many international broadcasters based here will be tempted to relocate. The regulations are drawn to ensure this relocation can’t be tokenistic. Will the 27 be minded to grant reciprocal alignment? Not much, many would love to host the broadcasters we currently do. Can we compensate creatives and broadcasters with financial incentives to make up for additional costs they suffer? Yes, of course, we have taken back control. Except the 27 will call it state subsidy and slap on tariffs. To which we can retaliate – oh, except the one industry where we know for sure there is now a cliff edge is looming is the one industry where we have a massive trade gap in our favour. Just so we are clear.

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