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Would Brexit affect UK taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest?

Would Brexit affect UK taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest?

It might not end well for the UK in Eurovision after Brexit

Will Brexit affect the UK taking part in the Eurovision Song Contest?

After all, for many in the UK, Eurovision is a yearly reminder that Brits do have friends on the mainland.

But now the clock is ticking down on the UK’s planned departure of the European Union following the 2016 referendum. The country departs the EU on 29 March 2019.

With no negotiated agreement between the UK and EU, a ‘no deal’ Brexit remains a possibility. This means the UK leaves the EU with no trade agreements in place.

But does that include Eurovision?

Does the UK automatically leave Eurovision when we leave the EU? 

Eurovision 2018
Eurovision 2018. | Photos: Daniel Kaminsky / Marie Bartosova / CYBC via Panik Records

The simple answer is no.

Eurovision is older than the European Union itself. The UK started participating in the contest in 1957, 16 years before joining the then European Economic Community.

The UK will remain a member of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

Both current Prime Minister Theresa May and former PM David Cameron have said there are no plans to exit the contest.

And if countries like Israel, Azerbaijan, and Australia can still enter, then it’s likely the UK can still participate.

Will Europeans hate the UK after it leaves the EU?

Well, that question remains up to be decided.

Paul Jordan, otherwise known as Dr Eurovision, worked for the EBU in the communications department for two-and-a-half years from 2016 to 2018. He also works as a pundit and expert about the contest.

Working in Amsterdam for the EBU, he remembers the slim 52% vote in 2016 for Brexit had an immediate impact at the time.

‘On the train we went through Brussels, armed police checked my passport, and gave me a look of absolute pity,’ he told Gay Star News.

‘It stuck in my mind. On Saturday night, we went to see a concert, the person collecting the tickets commented and said, “you stupid stupid people”.

‘It was a bit embarrassing about being told off about something none of us wanted. It was a taste of things to come.’

Will the UK be booed at future contests? 

Ukraine controversially won the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest
Ukraine controversially won the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest

Countries, like Russia, have been booed in the past due to passing homophobic laws.

However, Jordan believes the audience is fair-minded.

‘Eurovision fans are fair-minded and they all do their best to support the acts,’ he said.

‘But with the voters, I used to think it doesn’t matter as the countries will vote for the best song.’

But will anyone vote for the UK again? 

If you remember this year, the UK act SuRie had to deal with a stage invader.

He shouted: ‘For the Nazis of the UK media, we demand freedom.’ He was later taken into police custody.

‘That was to do with Brexit,’ Jordan said. ‘That had positive impact.

‘The fans picked up the phone more than they would normally. This year we beat Sweden and Australia in the public vote – that hasn’t happened in years. In terms of moving forward, I’m really not sure. There’s been so much in the news.’

But the problem is, will it have an impact on the vote when the UK actually leaves?

Jordan said: ”Why would someone in Europe vote for a country that doesn’t want to be in Europe anymore? I know that’s a simplistic point of view and more complicated than that.

‘My gut feeling is that the general feeling of goodwill among Europeans towards the UK is diminishing. By the time May comes round again next year, it could have diminished even more.’

Will the UK want to exit Eurovision if it continues to do badly? 

Conchita Wurst won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2014
Conchita Wurst won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2014

For Jordan, who did his PhD on Eurovision, he feels that voting figures speak for themselves.

In the UK earlier this year, the final was seen by an average of 6.9 million viewers – with a peak of 8.1 million.

‘It’s too popular an event. It’s an event that people actually understand, unlike the EU,’ Jordan said.

‘One of the reasons why Brexit happened is because people didn’t understand the work of the EU. They might not understand how the voting [in Eurovision] works, but at least they have a decent idea.

He added: ‘I think when the decision comes to leave Eurovision, that will be related to the voting figures. It won’t come down to where the UK places in the contest.’

So does the UK ever stand a chance at winning again? 

‘The BBC are trying very hard. They try different things with their selection format. People don’t realise they’re a very tiny team. They have very limited resources. They do their best with what they have,’ Jordan said.

‘Record labels are not interested – it’s hard to get support in the music industry itself.

He continued: ‘The minute the public stops watching Eurovision, that’s when the BBC might question their involvement.

‘But for now, Eurovision remains one of the few times in the year when people actually sit down at their television.’

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