Peter Savage settles into his seat on a flight to IBC in Amsterdam, closes his eyes and dreams of a post-Brexit world
Cast your mind forward and we are not in 2018 but next year and, yes, it’s you and me walking to the departure lounge to catch the plane to IBC just as I, and perhaps also you, have done for the last 25 years. (By the way, where is my long service award – and perhaps a new pair of shoes as I must, surely, have walked the equivalent of five Caminos covering the 12 halls in the Rai). We are at the gate and my imagination kicks in as I hypothesize on what the trip might look like next year. I leave it to you to decide which is closest to what might be to come.
Mr Positive (hard Brexiteer)
Rule Britannia is playing jauntily as I board the BA flight to Amsterdam. Sterling is the currency of the moment and is sitting back (as in the good old days) at £1.75 a Euro which is at parity with the US Dollar. I’m looking forward to my first lager after clearing customs as, at £3.00 a pint, and as Amsterdam’s hotels are notoriously cheap, I can treat this whole trip as a work-paid holiday. I fly through customs as the EEC’s new border line for GB passport holders allows me to sidestep the more cumbersome Schengen Area lines for all other Europeans. I grab a taxi and head off to the Rai.
I’ve lined up eight dealer meetings with various US and European camera manufacturers, every one of them wanting access to the largest free trade economy in the world. “Isn’t it great?” says a US company chief. “I couldn’t believe how Trump rolled over and gave you guys identical rights to US-made equipment!” he continued. Yes, in this new world, we in the UK can enjoy unrivalled access to US – and Asian, Chinese and European markets – unhindered and with no surcharges. How great it feels having the world at our fingertips! I wonder if this is what it was like in the good old days of the British Empire when most of the world outside Europe was pink.
It’s all thanks to a political master stroke by Mother Theresa of Westminster (as she is now known). I’m not sure what photos she had on Donald, the Chinese guy and Barnier but MI6 did a hell of a job. The lorry parks we’d built in Kent are now the world’s largest skateboarding centre. The economy has surged, with growth above five per cent, and the increase in tax revenue has paid for a complete re-structuring of the NHS. We have full employment … zzz.
Mr Negative (soft brexiteer)
I’ve been standing in the queue at Schiphol for two hours, bemused by how many checks and stamps the Chinese business visitor ahead of me needs just to visit a trade show. Franz, my German colleague, gave up waiting for me and headed off to the Rai for a pre-arranged meeting with a US manufacturer. He has the easiest job in the world as I now have to buy all my kit from him – we have not yet reached any trade agreement with the Americans. Or with Asian countries. Or, in fact, with anyone. I am stuck in a strange transitional soup. As soon as I’m through I head off and have a pint. Unfortunately, as the pound is now so low, I hand over about £8 and think ruefully about this exorbitantly priced weekend in Amsterdam, so expensive that half of it can’t be reclaimed through expenses.
It’s going to be a hard weekend negotiating ways to get kit into the UK. Okay, some manufacturers are fine but the Europeans, especially the northern Europeans, are having a field day. Austerity has kicked in and, to make matters worse, the final negotiations with the EBU have broken down and we are now trying to fund all European broadcasts from links via Turkey. It’s not great but we have no negotiating power. I wonder if this is what it feels like to be Greek.
I imagine another transitional arrangement in March that will kick the can down the road. Will Brexit be the next Millennium myth (remember 2000 compliance?) with all the corporates, us included, spending a fortune on a potential risk that comes to nothing? Will Dear Old Blighty find itself up the English Channel without a paddle … zzz.
Back to the world of now
Oh! I wake. We have taken off and it’s 2018 and I am looking forward to IBC. I always do. I hope, again, that the exhibition will bring together all my European friends, and the wave of UK broadcast guys, who take time out over a weekend to have a beer, chat, catch up together and talk shop. In fact we have two exhibitions – don’t forget Cinec, a great show for drama that, biennially, brings a niche collective of European camera people to Munich, with Oktoberfest a week later. Imagine what that would cost if we get Brexit wrong!
So make hay while the sun continues to shine (for our industry, and weather-wise). See you at The Beach Bar – come along and have a drink on us. And please don’t hesitate to air your views on this food-for-thought article. And, if you would like to know more about Azule, please look at our website: www.azule.co.uk.