Dear (future) Prime Minister:
You have issues to deal with far greater than the future of the UK art market.
But markets don’t stand still and the world’s second-largest art market (aka the UK) does not have the luxury of waiting. When the dust of the current political uncertainty settles, we ask you to be aware of auctioneers’ and dealers’ hopes and concerns.
Our Remain voters value access to Europe’s single market and to imported skills. Withdrawing from the EU means we can perhaps no longer rely on trade with that bloc.
A drop in the pound is just what our exporters need and indications from recent fairs and auctions are that the pound’s decline is making the UK a more attractive buying spot.
Collectors are often business people, however, whose spending power may be curtailed in uncertainty. For these reasons, we believe the following three measures need urgent attention:
1. Repeal Artist’s Resale Right
Those who voted 'Leave' in our industry did so mainly because they felt powerless to influence EU regulations such as ARR, which for 10 years has handed advantage to New York and Hong Kong, where there is no such levy.
Auctioneers and dealers have the red tape headache of administering ARR, while dealers must pay ARR each time a qualifying picture is sold. No other market has such an absurd arrangement.
We ask you to delete this onerous regulation.
2. Maintain or reduce 5% import VAT on art
The EU’s harmonisation of VAT in 2005 forced the UK to apply import VAT on art, antiques and collectables, affecting our prized position as a global entrepôt.
Yes, we benefit from having one of the lowest VAT rates in the EU but the Eurozone may trigger VAT on exporting art from the UK to the EU, if we leave.
So please, avoid the temptation to raise funds by increasing import VAT.
3. Clarity on ivory
Be aware that our industry does not deal in modern ivory and the few CITES prosecutions here are evidence that the UK is a good example of how to make the complex requirements of CITES work.
You can champion the middle way: categorically condemning sales of modern ivory while allowing the controlled sale of antique ivory.
In the meantime rest assured, now that the early shell-shock of the Brexit vote is fading, our sector is already making the best of things.
Yours, ATG readers*
(*Reader opinions were gathered by ATG reporters)