London Diary: Post Brexit shock for writers, 'silly non-story season' and more

Britain has a highly protected book market, thanks to EU’s restrictions on book imports, but now that Britain is out of the EU following Brexit, there’s talk of opening it up and liberalising imports

London Diary: Post Brexit shock for writers, 'silly non-story season' and more

Hasan Suroor

Post-Brexit shock for writers

Britain has a highly protected book market, thanks to the European Union’s restrictions on book imports, but now that Britain is out of the EU following Brexit, there’s talk of opening it up and liberalising imports. This has provoked a backlash from publishers and writers who fear that Britain would be swamped by cheaper imported books which would have a “devastating impact” on their earnings.

According to the Publishers’ Association, the industry could see a drop of £1 billion in physical sales, while writers will see their royalties —already squeezed by the dominance of retailers such as Amazon —decline further because of the knock-on effect it would have on local retail trade, forcing booksellers to reduce their prices in order to stay in business. Under the current regime, books published in Britain can be sold freely in Europe, but cannot be reimported to the domestic market after they have been sold outside the EU. Imports of foreign editions of books printed in Britain are also banned.

The Government has launched a consultation on whether the present regime should be retained or the market should be opened up to international competition in the “free market” spirit of Brexit.

More than 2,000 prominent writers, including Kazuo Ishiguro and Hilary Mantel, have warned against any attempt to weaken the current arrangement. In an open letter, they have said that a change could mean that they would be unable to limit foreign editions of their books being sold in Britain.

“This would undercut their domestic sales, impair their ability to earn an income and have a devastating impact on our world-renowned book industry. If writing becomes a profession only accessible to the wealthy, important stories will not be told,” said the letter published in The Sunday Times.

Ishiguro told the paper that had the current copyright framework not been in place “when I was first emerging as an author, I’d not have been able to write the kinds of books I did — or even pursue a career in writing at all”.

Silly season blue

You know the silly season is here when newspapers start recycling old stories, and you find pages after pages devoted to celebrity gossip, faux research studies and endless stories about fashion, wine and cuisine. Not to mention breathless accounts of the joys of wildlife and country living. With Parliament in recess, school shut for summer break, and Brits either already on holiday or scrambling to get on to the vacation bandwagon, there’s very little hard news except constantly changing and confusing travel advisories amid widespread criticism of the government’s post-lockdown strategy best summed up as a series of flip-flops and u-turns.

For India, however, the good news is that it’s now off the dreaded “Red List” of countries. Pakistan and Bangladesh remain “red”, though. There has been some criticism that India has been let off too early, given that Covid cases in many parts of the country remain high.

Travellers from “red” countries, except British citizens, are banned from entering Britain. Even British citizens must spend 10 days in quarantine in a government-approved hotel at their own cost which has been arbitrarily nearly doubled.

Meanwhile, the silly season goes on...with more non-stories about non-events enjoying their day in the sun.

'Abhi to main jawan hoon’

Even by British standards of litigiousness what Anne Dopson did was over the top, and inevitably she ended up being mocked and ridiculed. Which must have wounded her more than the reason that prompted her to do what she did.

Sixty-two-year-old Ms Dopson, who worked for an automobile magazine, was so upset when a colleague described her as “a grandmother” in an article he wrote in the company’s house magazine that she quit her £50,000-a-year job and then dragged her employers to an employment tribunal claiming discrimination.

Interestingly, she argued that although she was a grandmother with three grandchildren, she felt slighted because she took her colleague’s description of her as “a dig at my age” after others in the office started to joke about it. Needless to say, the tribunal threw out her complaint. The media has had a field day making fun of her for her hyper-sensitivity to her age.

“My youngest granny friend is in her mid-forties and makes a point of telling everyone that she is a grandma. Grandmothers are as varied as women are; it’s only by making that loud and clear that we’re ever going to get away from the idea that the very word is insulting,” wrote The Sunday Times columnist India Knight.

And, lastly, Rishi Sunak-- Britain’s “desi” but posh Chancellor of the Exchequer--has been dubbed “the Martini candidate” to succeed Boris Johnson. The term refers to an advertising campaign “beautiful people” which shows people undergoing cosmetic surgery to become “gorgeous enough” to drink Martini

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