Editor's note: The following was published in the Telegraph, March 14, 2011.
Another reminder of how EU membership wrecks Britain's competitiveness: Britain's art market has just been overtaken by China's. Why? Because, under Brussels rules, a tax is now levied on works of art every time they are re-sold for a full 70 years after the death of the artist. The levy, known as droit de suite, violates our understanding of ownership rights. I mean, if I buy a second-hand car, I don't expect to pay a surcharge to the heirs of the designer. That, though, isn't the main objection. The key problem is that, as so often , EU-wide rules end up disproportionately harming Britain.
London is the EU's only major art centre. None of its major competitors – New York, Geneva, Hong Kong – is affected by the new duty. Since droit de suite was introduced in 2006, Britain's share of the global art trade has fallen from 27 per cent to 22 per cent. Throw in the EU's application of VAT to art sales, and British industry worth £7.7 billion and employing 60,000 people starts to look extremely vulnerable.
According to Anthony Browne, chairman of the British Art Market Federation: "The EU alone applies this levy: it doesn't exist in China, the United States or Switzerland, our main global competitors. Surely this is just the kind of thing that the Prime Minister is referring to when he talks of the need to lift regulation on the private sector".