The British Art Market Federation (BAMF) has called on the government to reclaim major powers regulating the UK’s art market from the European Union and return them to Parliament in London.
BAMF submitted the formal appeal as part of
the government's official review of the balance of powers between
Brussels and Westminster.
The chairman of BAMF, Anthony Browne, argued
that when considering EU policy in the round, it does not benefit
the British art market. At the heart of BAMF's argument is that a
combination of circumstances means that the EU will never be
disposed to act in the interests of the UK in this sphere.
The first is that because Britain's art
market is so much larger than that found in any other member state,
other countries within the EU have little interest in the impact of
internal legislation on the art market.
The second is that Single Market
considerations tend to focus on creating a level playing field
within the EU while ignoring the wider competitive pressures of the
"The British art market is unique within the
European Union, not only because of its size - it accounts for 66%
of the EU's art market by value (its nearest rival, France, has
only 16%) - but because it is the EU's only genuinely global art
market," states the submission.
"Because of its global outreach, the British
art market must ensure that it remains competitive, both within and
outside the EU, particularly as London's major international
rivals, New York, Hong Kong and Geneva are beyond the scope of EU
This objective is being frustrated, argues
the submission: "Single Market legislation has mainly been
detrimental to the UK's ability to compete internationally, because
its primary aim has been to establish harmonisation within the EU,
rather than to protect the EU's competitive position in the wider
The most obvious case in which British
interests have been dismissed via Qualified Majority Voting was
over the introduction of the Artists' Resale Right. The prime
minister at the time, Tony Blair, voted against the measure, but
QMV meant that there was no British right of veto, so the UK was
forced to introduce it.
However, it is the wider scope of interest
that BAMF is concerned with here, encompassing taxation and export
controls as well.
"In general, BAMF's main concern about the
balance of EU competence centres on the uniqueness of the British
market and the difficulty that British governments have had in
attempting to defend its interests in the context of a very
competitive global art market. We suggest that greater
subsidiarity, or mutual recognition of the differing priorities of
Member States, should prevail so that decisions, which can impact
disproportionately on Britain's art market, are made in Westminster
rather than in Brussels."
The government is conducting six such reviews covering a wide
range of British interests. What they have not yet declared,
however, is how they will act on the findings.