European book trade reacts to Brexit

European book trade reacts to Brexit

European publishers have pledged to continue dialogue and business relationships with the UK despite last week's Brexit vote.

Many Remain-favouring UK publishers have been expressing their shame at the "Leave" win to their European contacts, with one London-based independent with a strongly international readership and authorship saying on Facebook that they were "embarrassed to be part of such an inward-looking nation, driven by fear."

The French Publishers Association said it looked forward to sharing British colleagues' "mutually enriching" views, including on copyright, and that it hoped the "good sense will prevail despite any political decisions".

"We work extremely closely with British publishers in the Federation of European Publishers (FEP)," Pierre Dutilleul, director of the French Publishers Association (Syndicat National de l’Edition," SNE) told The Bookseller. "This collaboration is very useful for discussing copyright and other important issues. We are not always in agreement, but our views are mutually enriching. I look forward to hearing about the role the Publishers Association intends to play in the future concerning all questions that affect the profession."

Dutilleul added: "We discussed many ideas with our British colleagues at the International Publishers Association (IPA) congress in April, and hope we will be able to continue these exchanges and that good sense will prevail despite any political decisions."

Bertelsmann has said it will continue to invest in the UK irrespective of its decision to leave the EU. The German multinational corporation, based in Gütersloh, said as part of a blog on Friday (24th June),that  it acknowledged the electorates's decision "with regret" but that the UK would still remain an "important" market for the media conglomerate. It said: "As an international company with a strong presence in the U.K. as elsewhere, Britain’s impending exit from the EU raises political and economic uncertainties for us all. Irrespective of the Brexit decision, the U.K., as our fourth-largest market, remains very important to us."

It added that it would "continue to invest in its business there" while at the same time being "committed to preserving a shared European cultural space and common European standards, such as copyright laws".

Bertelsmann has 5,500 employees in the UK and also owns a 53% stake in Penguin Random House. Prior to Brexit, Gail Rebuck said in interview for the Bertelsmann website that such a move was "too big a risk to take" for a variety of commercial reasons. "There are alternative models to single market access if we were to leave, but none of them are as good as the deal we have at the moment," she said at the time

Thomas Rathnow, publisher at new PRH German venture Penguin Verlag, commented that its "close cooperation" with British authors, publishers and literary agents would remain "unchanged" despite the news.

"It is regrettable that the majority of the British people has voted to leave the European Union," said Rathnow. "It would have been desirable in times of political and economic uncertainties to support Europe, despite justified criticism of the EU. In this regard Brexit is a setback. Under these circumstances it is even more important that we, with our books, try to contribute to a better understanding and especially a deeper appreciation of an increasingly complex world. Our close cooperation with British authors, publishers and literary agents will of course remain unchanged despite Brexit."

Of its potential impact on the sale of rights, Sebastian Ritscher, m.d. at literary agency Mohrbooks in Zurich, Switzerland, hit an optimistic note. He said: "I don’t think that Brexit will have a bearing on the number of rights sold from the UK to Europe. The weaker British currency however will be felt with immediate effect. Exporting translating rights will become more lucrative for British publishers. From my point of view the British publishing industry will not be weakened in the wake of Brexit, because in contrast to the film industry it has received hardly any European subsidies.

"While I don’t see a direct context between Brexit and the rights business, I am generally worried about the increasing noises by the global hoopla nationalism which threatens an important pillar of the liberal community," he added.

Peter Fritz of Fritz Agency in Zurich, Switzerland, echoed the sentiment, but showed concern for its impact on authors. He added: "Brexit will have no influence on the rights business. But life will become more difficult for authors. They might find themselves increasingly isolated. Interesting times are in store."

Meanwhile as to Brexit's implications for the rest of the European publishing industry, Olivier Bétourné, chairman and c.e.o. of Editions du Seuil, said: "I am a committed European. But I hope the Brexit disaster means Europe will return to its basic values, and stop treating culture like cans of baked beans. Ultraliberal policies are styming the French system of regulation [including the Lang law on fixed book prices], which has helped preserve our network of independent booksellers and editorial backlists. The Europe we have now is nothing like what it was 40 years ago, and some of the directives these days coming out of the European Commission are exasperating."